Protesters set up checkpoint on road leading to airport to prevent Rajapaksa loyalists from fleeing Sri Lanka
Colombo: Anti-government protesters in Sri Lanka on Tuesday set up a checkpoint on the road leading to the Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo to prevent the Rajapaksa family loyalists from fleeing the country, as violence and widespread protest continued against the regime over the country’s worst economic crisis in decades.
Mahinda Rajapaksa, 76, resigned as prime minister on Monday amid unprecedented economic turmoil, hours after his supporters attacked anti-government protesters, prompting authorities to impose a nationwide curfew and deploy Army troops in the capital. The attack triggered widespread violence against pro-Rajapaksa politicians.
“Large group of people have set up a checkpoint on the road leading to the Katunayake Airport. They are trying to prevent ruling faction loyalists from fleeing the country,” News 1st channel reported.
The Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo is locally known as Katunayake Airport.
Mahinda, along with his wife and family, fled his official residence – Temple Trees – and took shelter at a naval base in Trincomalee – a port city on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka.
Throughout the night on Monday, the police fired teargas shells to quell mobs trying to enter the Temple Trees residence. In the early hours of Tuesday, police fired tear gas and warning shots to hold back mobs as security forces moved Mahinda and his family out of his official residence.
A protest has begun in front of the Trincomalee Naval Base after reports that Mahinda and some of his family members are there after leaving Temple Trees.
On Monday, protesters attacked the ancestral home of the Rajapaksas in Hambantota, the houses of 14 former ministers, 18 lawmakers, including former Deputy Speaker, and leaders loyal to the Rajapaksa family.
Meanwhile, the number of people injured in recent clashes has risen to 249, while 7 were killed in the same, hospital sources said.
A Spokesperson for the National Hospital stated that 232 people injured in the clashes have been admitted to the hospital for treatment so far.
Five of the injured are currently receiving treatment at the Intensive Care Unit.
Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since gaining independence from Britain in 1948.
The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.
Thousands of demonstrators have hit the streets across Sri Lanka since April 9 seeking resignation of President Gotabaya and Prime Minister Mahinda, as the government ran out of money for vital imports; prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed and there are acute shortages in fuel, medicines and electricity supply.