Bus and train networks at a standstill as offices and factories were empty
Sri Lanka’s bus and train networks came to a standstill as offices and factories stood empty on Friday during a nationwide strike demanding the resignation of the government amid the island’s worsening economic crisis.
Months of power outages and acute shortages of food, fuel and pharmaceuticals have caused widespread suffering across the South Asian island nation.
Public anger has sparked sustained protests demanding the government resign over its mishandling of the crisis, Sri Lanka’s worst since independence in 1948.
Millions of workers went out of work on Friday in a strike organized by the country’s labor movement, with all but one scheduled train service cancelled.
Private buses were taken off the roads as industrial workers demonstrated outside their factories and black flags were hung across the country in anger at the government.
“We can identify the president’s policy mistakes that have led to this deplorable state of our economy,” said union leader Ravi Kumudesh.
“He must go.”
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has insisted he will not step down despite escalating protests across the island, including one that has camped outside his seaside office for nearly a month.
Police fired tear gas at thousands of students trying to storm the national parliament on Thursday night after the assembly adjourned for the day.
Sri Lanka’s economic crisis took hold after the coronavirus pandemic hammered income from tourism and remittances.
Unable to pay for fuel imports, utilities have imposed daily blackouts to ration electricity, while long lines of people snake around gas stations for petrol and kerosene.
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Hospitals are running out of life-saving drugs and the government has appealed to citizens abroad for donations.
Last month, Sri Lanka announced it was defaulting on its $51 billion foreign debt, and Finance Minister Ali Sabry warned this week that the country will have to endure its unprecedented economic hardship for at least two years. .