Sri Lanka cricket stars join street protests against government amid economic crisis – Reuters

The island nation is in the grip of its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948



Former Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya. (AFP)

By AFP

Published: Sat 16 Apr 2022, 5:39 PM

Sri Lanka’s World Cup-winning cricket captain Arjuna Ranatunga and former captain Sanath Jayasuriya have joined street protests demanding the resignation of the president due to the country’s economic crisis.

Cricket is avidly followed in the Indian Ocean island nation and the pair have called on other former players to support attempts to oust President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The island nation is in the grip of its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948, with severe shortages of essential goods and regular power outages causing widespread misery.

“Cricket is driven by the spectators,” Ranatunga said outside Rajapaksa’s office in Colombo on Friday, surrounded by demonstrators who have been protesting daily for the president’s impeachment since last week.

“Our fans are on the streets today because they can’t take the hardships anymore. We have to be with our fans when they need us most. Sports stars have to physically join the protests.

Hours later, fellow former captain Sanath Jayasuriya, known as “Master Blaster”, scaled the barricades outside Rajapaksa’s colonial-era office and pledged his solidarity.

“Your message is loud and clear,” he told the tens of thousands of protesters. “I hope the authorities will listen and ensure a better future for all of us.”

Crowds chanted “Gota go home, Gota go home.”

The pair are the first former captains to join the street protests in person, but other stars have already expressed their support.

Ex-captain Mahela Jayawardena strongly backed the protests on social media and urged Rajapaksa to leave while ex-captain Kumar Sangakkara issued more cautious statements.

Former International Cricket Council Test player and match referee Roshan Mahanama, who has supported the anti-Rajapaksa campaign since its inception, has compared the country’s predicament to Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

“When I was going to Zimbabwe many years ago, I saw the economic hardship people were suffering there,” Mahanama said. AFP.

“My driver had to queue for hours to get diesel. I thought this would never happen in my country. But today we are in the same boat.

Police tightened security around Rajapaksa’s office on Saturday as protests demanding his resignation entered a second week.

More than a dozen trucks were seen parked near the Galle Face Promenade building, which is protected by commandos and riot police.

Official sources said authorities fear the number of protesters will increase next week as more marches are planned.

“We can expect more people to come in. The current (police) strength might not be enough,” an official told AFP, on condition of anonymity.

“So far the crowd is peaceful, but we can’t take any chances.”

Sri Lanka imposed fuel rationing on Friday in the latest effect of the crisis.

The government has urged citizens abroad to donate foreign currency to help pay for desperately needed basic necessities.

It has announced a default on all of its external debt and will open negotiations with the International Monetary Fund to request a bailout.

About Tammy N. McFarlane

Check Also

Abu Dhabi School of Government expands its global network of partners at GITEX 2022

The Abu Dhabi School of Government (ADSG) has expanded its global partner network by announcing …