Police fired tear gas to disperse thousands of students who attempted to storm the Sri Lankan president’s home on Sunday, when the government offered an olive branch to protesters demanding his resignation.
Riot police used water cannons followed by tear gas, while angry protesters tore down yellow iron barricades across a road leading to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s official residence in Colombo.
Nearby, thousands of men and women demonstrated outside Rajapaksa’s coastal office for the 51st day in a row, demanding that he resign over the country’s worst economic crisis since independence.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe came on national television on Sunday evening to give young protesters a greater say in the country’s governance.
“The young people are calling for a change in the existing system,” Wickremesinghe said, as he planned 15 committees that would decide national policies together with parliament.
“I propose to appoint four youth representatives to each of the 15 committees,” he said, adding that they could be chosen from among the current protesters.
The demonstrations led to tense scenes in Colombo, where authorities struggled to disperse large crowds and chemical irritants hung the streets.
Several men were seen picking up canisters of tear gas and throwing them back at the police who fired them.
Female medical and science students took part in the protests, with many taking cover when authorities unleashed the water cannon.
Wickremesinghe is not of Rajapaksa’s party but was offered the job after the president’s older brother, Mahinda, resigned as prime minister on May 9 after weeks of protests, when no other legislator agreed to intervene.
Wickremesinghe is the only parliamentary representative of the United National Party, a once-powerful political force almost wiped out in Sri Lanka’s last election.
Rajapaksa’s party, which has a majority in the legislature, has offered to give him the necessary support to lead a government.
Sunday’s student protest came a day after a similar clash as protesters attempted to storm Rajapaksa’s heavily guarded colonial-era official residence, where he has been bunkered since thousands surrounded his private residence on March 31.
An unprecedented shortage of foreign exchange to import even the most essential necessities, including food, fuel and medicine, has caused severe hardship for the country’s 22 million inhabitants.
The government last month asked the International Monetary Fund for urgent financial assistance. The conversations continue.
The country has defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt.
The currency has depreciated 44.2 percent against the US dollar this year, while inflation reached a record 33.8 percent last month.
(This story was not edited by DailyExpertNews staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)