Sri Lanka president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Teachers and train drivers on Thursday joined the mass walkouts in Sri Lanka,  demanding President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government quit over the worst financial crisis in decades.

Many schools in Colombo were shut and several train stations were deserted on Thursday.

Hundreds of employees from Sri Lankan state-run banks, most wearing black and carrying black flags, also joined other bank trade unions in a protest march to the president’s office as thousands of people took to the streets around the country.

The pandemic, rising oil prices, populist tax cuts and rapidly dwindling foreign currency reserves have left Sri Lanka without enough dollars to pay for vital imports of fuel, food and medicine.

Sometimes violent street demonstrations had erupted as shortages and power cuts became acute.

Samanthi Ekanayake, 34 who worked as a teller at a state-run bank said “this government has ruined our country. Costs are increasing every day, businesses are closing, and people have no way to live. `

“There is no fuel, when we go home there is no electricity and no cooking gas to make meals. We are tired of broken promises.’’

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The country’s trade union leaders had threatened an ongoing strike from May 6 if the president and the government did not resign.

Rajapaksa this week,  reiterated his willingness to form an interim government with a new prime minister and cabinet.

However, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was his elder brother, had declined to step down and insisted he continued to have a majority in the 225-member parliament.

Meanwhile, two Opposition parties, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) have started the process to bring no-confidence motions against the president and prime minister in parliament.

Cabinet spokesman Nalaka Godahewa said` `political instability will only make it more difficult to provide solutions to the financial crisis.

“So it is imperative a strong government with a clear majority is established in parliament and the government is working towards this goal.”

(Reuters/NAN)

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