According to the opposition, the government of President Ranil Wickremesinghe is trying to postpone the vote to avoid revealing the difference between the executive and popular preferences. Yesterday the agents used tear gas and water cannons, at least 30 people ended up in the hospital.
Colombo () – Last night in the capital there were again clashes between protesters and the police, who used tear gas and water cannons against the militants of the National People’s Power (NPP), an opposition coalition that calls on the government not to postpone the local elections scheduled for March 9. More than 30 protesters were hospitalized.
In mid-February, the Electoral Commission had announced that the postal vote, scheduled for the 22nd to 24th of this month, would be postponed until further notice after the Government Printing Department refused to print ballot papers, claiming that it did not had received the corresponding payments. According to various commentators, it is an attempt by the government to postpone local elections so that the distance between its administration – which took power after the street riots that overthrew former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa – and the preferences of the population does not become evident. .
NPP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake declared that for the good of the people, he will ensure that local elections are held, by hook or by crook. During the protest rally at Lipton Circus, he stressed that the battle to force the government to hold local elections cannot be repelled with the use of tear gas or water cannon.
A court order issued against 26 leaders, including Dissanayake himself, had prohibited them from marching into the city center and from entering the vicinity of the Office and Residence of the President and the premises of the Ministry of Finance between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. :00 hours yesterday. Ignoring the order, the protesters headed towards Colombo Fort as well. Hundreds of police and military personnel were deployed to prevent the demonstrators from reaching the Presidential Secretariat and the City Hall. Anura Kumara Dissanayake led the march and had a heated exchange with the police, who used tear gas and water cannons in an attempt to disperse the protesters, who however again clashed with the officers. During the protests the slogan “Ranila pissek” (Ranil is an idiot) was heard. Finally, the protesters gathered at Lipton Circus and held a rally surrounded by police and military.
Some candidates who are expected to run in the local elections declared to that President Wickramasinghe “has not yet learned the lesson of the massive popular struggle to overthrow Gotabaya.”
“The government has money to deploy so many police and army battalions against our protest, but not to import medicine and food,” said an NPP candidate. “Even if we accept him as a leader, what trust can be placed in a head of government who does not allow a genuine protest of the people?” added the protesters from the box of the demonstration.