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Sri Lanka: Is a Second Aragalya Protests in the offing?

Updated: Feb 28

Sri Lanka police fired water cannons and tear gas to disperse a protest march held by the National People’s Power (NPP) on February 26 in the Town Hall area of Colombo. Colombo page reported that 28 people were injured and admitted to the Colombo National Hospital.

The NPP was protesting postponement of the local government elections

The protestors disregarded a court order and tried to march towards Colombo Fort by marching through the Ibbanwala Junction from the Town Hall area of Colombo and the police intervened to prevent the march.

The court order was issued against 26 persons including the NPP Leader MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake from marching towards Galle Face through several roads in Colombo and entering areas around the President’s Office, President House and the Finance Ministry premises from 01 pm - 08 pm on 26th Feb as per the Colombo Page.

Meanwhile there were rumours that Prime Minister is resigning to make wave for Mahenda Rajapaksa.

However Prime Minister’s Office denied the same saying that there is no truth whatsoever in the media reports that Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena would resign from his post.

“Furthermore there has not been any request or pressure from any quarters for the Prime Minister to resign,” the PM’s office said in a statement as per Colombo Page.

Postponement of the local government polls has been the main cause for the protests and there were some rumours in Colombo that Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and the ousted Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa would return to power in a come back bid which has now been denied.

Members of the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) stood in front of Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena on February 21 blocking his view of the chamber with placards calling the government out for what the SJB called its cowardice.

SJB and other opposition MPs as well as members of the government that now sit in the opposition as independents were heard shouting slogans decrying the government for its actions in delaying the election.

SJP Leader Sajith Premadasa twitted on the response of the police to the NPP protests

This comes as National Election Commission has announced that the Local Government (LG) election will not be held on the 9th of March 2023 as previously scheduled and new date to hold local government polls will be announced on March 3rd.

Election Commissioner General Saman Sri Ratnayake said polling will not be held on March 9 due to matters that have arisen beyond the control of the Election Commission mainly as the government refused to provide funds for the polls.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe and the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP)-led coalition face almost certain defeat in any election.

According to a survey by Verite Research, a Sri Lankan think tank, the government’s approval ratings have sunk to 10 percent.

Though the local council election would not change the national government, the Wickremesinghe regime is concerned that an election defeat could lead to further political instability, derail its deeply unpopular economic program and jeopardise talks with the IMF for a $US2.9 billion bailout loan.

Thus it is believed that Sri Lankan government of President Ranil Wickremesinghe has taken deliberate steps to block local government (LG) polls scheduled for March 9 with the Election Commission now announcing fresh dates.

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