Monday, August 8, 2022

US embassy issues alert amid call for protest in Sri Lanka

The US embassy in Sri Lanka has issued an advisory in the aftermath of a countrywide ‘vehicle protest’ scheduled for five hours on Wednesday.

“Calls for a country-wide “vehicle protest” on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM have been widely circulated on social media. The protest effort calls for all vehicles to stop in place along roads, blocking traffic, for the five-hour period. Although organizers request emergency vehicles be allowed to pass, the collective action will likely cause road congestion,” the US embassy said in an alert. People were requested by the US Embassy to “avoid the areas of rallies or demonstrations, exercise caution if unexpectedly in the vicinity of large gatherings or protests, monitor local media for updates, and keep a low profile.”

According to the Daily Mirror newspaper, an audio clip of the demonstration was published on social networking platforms.

The video message demands the departure of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, as well as the nomination of a suitable leader capable of handling the country’s present predicament.

The recording also requested that automobiles that obstruct police manoeuvring by occupying the whole area allowed on the highways be halted.

Earlier in May, the US Embassy issued a “demonstration notice” in advance of Colombo’s city-wide demonstrations. Several protests and marches were planned in and around Colombo to protest the country’s economic predicament.

“The demonstrations are likely to make travel to/from/within Colombo more difficult and cause road closures and traffic congestion throughout the day,” the US Embassy said.

Notably, Sri Lanka is experiencing its greatest economic crisis since its independence in 1948, resulting in a severe scarcity of vital products such as food, medication, cooking gas, and gasoline throughout the island nation.

The almost insolvent government, which is suffering from a severe foreign currency crisis that has resulted in foreign debt default, announced in April that it is deferring roughly USD 7 billion in foreign debt payments due this year, out of approximately USD 25 billion due until 2026.

The economic crisis has had a significant impact on food security, agriculture, livelihoods, and access to health care. Food output was 40- 50% lower than the previous harvest season, and the current agricultural season is jeopardised due to seed, fertiliser, fuel, and finance constraints.

Sri Lanka is one of the few countries designated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as likely to go hungry this year owing to a worldwide food crisis.

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