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Will peaceful protests in Sri Lanka turn violent after police firing?

Protests take over Sri Lanka after food and fuel shortages mount (Photo: IANS)

One person was killed and 24 injured when the Sri Lankan police opened fire on a crowd protesting against the fuel price hike by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) on Tuesday. This is the first time that the police has fired on people since the protests began in the island nation over food shortage and run-away fuel prices.

The police said that it opened fire on the people after they pelted stones and the crowd turned violent. The people had blocked a main road in Rambukkana, which lies 95 km from capital Colombo in central Sri Lanka.

People take over the Galle Face sea front in Sri Lankan capital Colombo (Photo: ANI)

Sri Lankan newspaper Daily Mirror said that people were pelting stones at the police station after surrounding it. Authorities imposed curfew in Rambukkana till further orders.

The CPC had increased fuel prices by nearly 64 per cent in a single day along with rationing the amount of fuel people could buy. People in the entire country have been protesting against the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa government over the mismanagement of the country's economic situation leading the island nation to the brink of starvation and chaos. 

US ambassador to Sri Lanka, Julie Chung, called for calm after the Rambukkana violence. Chung tweeted: "I am deeply saddened by the horrible news coming out of Rambukkana. I condemn any violence – whether against protesters or police – and call for restraint and calm from all sides. A full, transparent investigation is essential and the people's right to peaceful protest must be upheld".

Meanwhile, crowds of people from all walks of life have taken over the Galle Face sea front in capital Colombo as a mark of continuous protest against the government. People have been chanting "Go Gota Go" slogans for the past month, clearly indicating that they want the powerful Rajapaksa family to step down from its numerous positions of power. President Rajapaksa and his brother Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa have been made the targets of protest by the people.

Last week the government announced that it will not be able to pay foreign debt amounting to $51 billion, acknowledging that the economic and financial situation has completely slipped out of its hands.

A delegation led by newly-appointed Finance Minister Ali Sabry is in Washington to speak with lenders, asking the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to urgently release upto $4 billion to help the country. India has been supporting the nation in supplying food and oil, keeping the country afloat through its worst crisis.

Also read: Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa opts for damage control—tenders apology, forms new cabinet without family members