Police used teargas and water cannons to break up a satyagraha in Maradana last night. The peaceful protest was against celebrating the country’s 75th year of independence in the midst of the ongoing socio-economic crisis which is hurting millions of Sri Lankans.

Moments before that, goons were seen attacking the protestors despite a heavy police presence. The protesters who until the assault were seated peacefully adjacent to the Elphinston theater, which is in a commercial hub in Colombo, were also screaming at the police not to hit them.

Earlier yesterday, police obtained a magisterial order to stop protesters entering the Galle Face area on Independence Day. It is where the main celebrations will be held. Hundreds of men and women from the tri forces and police as well as civilians have been rehearsing for the traditional parade past local and foreign attendees at the event.

The attack on the protesters took place on the eve of Sri Lanka’s 75th anniversary of independence, a word which does not resonate with the reality of a majority of its people.

There have been calls for a boycott of Independence Day from the time the government announced its decision to celebrate it and said it had allocated 200 million rupees. Sri Lankans felt the money should have been used to help thousands who are struggling without jobs, money, and food due to the economic stranglehold the country is in. Several political parties, including the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya and the Tamil National Alliance, have said they will boycott the celebration.

The World Bank, which has re-purposed nearly $400 to respond to urgent needs, has projected that poverty in Sri Lanka will remain over 25 percent in the next few years.

Meanwhile UNICEF said about 5.7 million people, including 2. 3 million children, need humanitarian assistance. It found that thousands of children are being pushed to skip meals and are malnourished and showing signs of increased stunting and wasting.






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