The Left of the Line
While Sri Lanka is yet to see the widespread strike action expected to be launched by communist opposition parties like the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) — the National Liberation Front — trade unions have been visible from the very beginning of the Galle Face protests; presenting an older voice to what is often seen as a youth-led effort, calling for President Gotabhaya Rajapakse and his government to resign. Sri Lanka is suffering its worst economic crisis in modern history, and a large part of the blame for it has been apportioned to corruption and ineptitude within the Rajapakse government, studded with the president’s brothers and other relatives. The crisis, triggered by a lack of foreign currency reserves, has seen widespread shortages of fuel, cooking gas, and medicine, skyrocketing inflation, and electricity cuts as long as thirteen hours; the latter sparking the first protests in March, this year. While youth have been the visible face of the Colombo demonstrations, protests outside the city have often taken a harder edge; angry, older men, many of them fathers desperate to feed their families, clashing with police who have responded with tear gas, water cannon, rubber bullets and, on one occasion, with live ammunition, killing a protestor a week ago, in Rambukkana, less than 100km from the capital.
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