An Echelon Media Company
Tuesday September 26th, 2023

Long delay, high fuel price turned Sri Lanka protesters violent: eyewitnesses

File photo of fuel queue in Sri Lanka

ECONOMYNEXT – An overnight hike in fuel prices after two days of patiently waiting in long queues for petrol and diesel led protestors in the central Sri Lankan town of Rambukkana to turn violent and burn tyres before police shot one of them dead, eyewitnesses said.

A protester was shot and killed in a clash with police on Tuesday (19), while another 24 were injured with two of them reported to be in critical condition. The protest was staged by around 2,500 locals against fuel shortages and the sharp price hike.

It was the first death in a series of protests that have erupted islandwide against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa government’s economic mismanagement.

Motorists in the area had been waiting for fuel since Sunday, but they never got any amid a severe fuel shortage due to lack of dollars in the country.

However, on Monday, residents of Rambukkana were told they would receive fuel that evening. This did not transpire.

The state-run fuel retailer Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) raised petrol prices by 33 percent and diesel by 64 percent from midnight Monday.

Pay more for fuel

According to witnesses, the protesters had been promised fuel at the price prior to the upward revision on Tuesday and violence was triggered as they were requested to buy fuel at the new market rate.

“The people were highly agitated because they had to pay,” an eye witness told EconomyNext asking not to be named.

“People were tired after waiting two days. The price increase led them to the next level of frustration.”

The frustrated protesters blocked the main Kandy railway track, blocked the main road, and shouted slogans against the government including “Go Home Gota”, the main slogan of a protest campaign which has been demanding that President Rajapaksa resign over his inability to ensure supply of essentials.

The protesters never physically harmed police despite the intensified protest, said witnesses, but the arrival of fuel bowser changed their behaviour.

Since the fuel in the bowser was to be sold at a higher price, they stopped the bowser at the main railway crossing, two eye witnesses said.

“They (protesters) were angry because they had information that the filling station had delayed the previous day’s bowser to earn an exorbitant profit by selling the fuel at the new prices.

Police started violence?

“It was police who started the violence by burning a threewheeler and then started to attack us with teargas. The protesters reacted with throwing rocks at police,” another eye witness who identified himself as Gamini said.

“Then police stared to shoot at the protesters. Everybody knows what happened from that point onward.”

Many eye witnesses EconomyNext spoke to said the people were largely peaceful and never wanted to get into a conflict with the police.

“The protest was peaceful until the police decided to disperse the crowd with teargas,” Indika Wickremsinghe, a protester in the area who witnessed the police shooting, said.

“We didn’t have blades, knives, or even a box of matches with us. We all came out to the streets in anger, but never to cause violence.”

“It was shocking to the people present and our village, because when we were out protesting, we had lunch together with the police, shared our water with them and the last thing we expected was violence towards us,” he added.

Police dispute

Police claim they used “minimum force” to control the protest and that they had to resort to such tough action when protesters attempted to set fire to a bowser with over 30,000 litres of fuel, forcefully stopped across the main railway crossing.

Police spokesman SSP Nihal Thalduwa told media the protesters failed to disperse and burnt a three wheeler while planing to do the same to the fuel bowser.

After the police attempted to disperse the crowd using teargas, he said, gunshots were fired at the protesters, which killed one.

“The protesters tried to set fire on the bowser. If that happened, it would have been a disaster. We have the responsibility of protecting the lives of the citizens in the country,” Public Security Minister Prasanna Ranatunga told parliament on Wednesday (20).

Ranatunga defended the decision to shoot, saying that the “minimum force” was made “after all other measures were taken.” (Colombo/Apr21/2022)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment

Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sri Lanka cabinet okays appropriation bill for 2024 budget

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers had approved a draft Appropriation Act for 2024, the state information office said.

The Finance Minister’s proposal to gazette the bill and table it in parliament was approved by the cabinet.

Presenting the appropriation bill is the first stage of presenting a budget for 2024,

The appropriation bills set outs the expenditure plans for each ministry.

The budget proposals, made in November is called the second reading of the Appropriation Act. (Colombo/Sept24/2023)

Continue Reading

Sri Lanka’s MEPA to get 28.5 mn rupees from Singaporean AEPW, for beach clean up

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) is to receive 5.7 million rupees a year, for five years, from Singapore-based marine waste solutions provider, Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), to maintain 8 beach cleaner machines.

The donation is meant to support MEPA clean coastal areas across Sri Lanka, using BeachTech Hydro Sweepy beach cleaner machines, previously donated by the organisation.

The oil industry-founded non-governmental organisation donated the 8 beach cleaners worth about US$180,000 to MEPA in the wake of the 2021 MV X-press Pearl ship disaster.

The machines manufactured by Kässbohrer Geländefahrzeug AG, a German company, are effective at cleaning up plastic nurdles and other types of potentially harmful non-biodegradable waste, minimising human contact with hazardous materials.

As a significant amount of money is spent for the deployment of these machines for beach cleaning activities, the Alliance to End Plastic Waste has agreed to provide the funds for the upkeep of the machines for a period of five years.

With this financial donation, the Maritime Environment Protection Authority will be able to continue using these machines without interruption to clean identified beaches in the future. (Colombo/Sep26/2023)

Continue Reading

Sri Lanka’s SEC makes four new appointments

ECONOMYNEXT – The Securities and Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka (SEC) made four new additions from diverse backgrounds to its leadership.

These appointments are expected to increase the effectiveness of the SEC secretariat in the respective operating areas, the SEC said.

Manuri Weerasinghe, with over 20 years of experience in accounting, financial management, financial reporting and auditing, was appointed Director, Corporate Affairs.

She is a Fellow Member of CA Sri Lanka, member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and a member of the Certified Practicing Accountants of Australia.

Her academic credentials include a Master of Business Administration and a BSc (Hons) in Accountancy and Financial Management (Special).

Prior to joining the SEC, she served in several financial management positions in Bermuda and Sweden.

Madura P R Wanigasekara was appointed Chief Digital Officer. He has over 20 years delivering and managing IT solutions, and has held several senior management positions in the public and private sectors.

His academic qualifications include a Master of Science in Information Technology from the University of Colombo and a Bachelor of Information Technology from the Curtin University of Technology.

He is also a member of the Australian Computer Society (ACS).

Sharmila Panditaratne was appointed Assistant Director, Legal and Enforcement.

She is an Attorney-at-Law with over 21 years of experience as a securities market regulator.

She holds a Master of Laws degree from the University of Houston, Texas and has worked at two law firms in the USA prior to joining the SEC.

Riyaz Bary, Deputy Solicitor General at the Attorney General’s Department was appointed a Director on secondment basis. (Colombo/Sep26/2023)

Continue Reading