A general strike called by hundreds of trade unions in Sri Lanka to demand the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government has affected public life across the island.
Schools and businesses were closed, public and private transport was disrupted and banks were partially closed in support of a one-day strike on Thursday amid a growing economic and political crisis in the country.
Trade union activist Vasantha Samarasinghe said, “With over 1,000 trade unions supporting this action, it is one of the largest general strikes ever launched by workers.”
The general strike came as thousands continued to protest in front of the presidential office in the capital Colombo for the 20th day in a row, asking him and his elder brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, to step down.
Some protesters have also camped at the premier’s residence, located two km from the presidential office.
There are also regular protests in towns in the Indian Ocean island nation, which is on the verge of bankruptcy with heavy foreign debt and a foreign exchange crisis, leading to shortages of imported essential goods such as fuel and food.
Meanwhile, the main opposition leader in parliament, Sajith Premadasa, is currently leading a six-day march in the capital till Sunday to mark the May Day celebrations.
President Rajapaksa has summoned all parties to parliament on Friday to consider the possibility of forming an interim government.
The entire cabinet, except the President and the Prime Minister, resigned in early April, and the President invited opposition parties for a unity government.
But opposition parties refuse to be part of the Rajapaksa-led government, which has dominated almost every aspect of life in Sri Lanka over the past 20 years.
Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since independence from British rule in 1948. The lack of dollars to purchase fuel, gas and medicines has led to high inflation and long queues outside shops and fuel stations.
The government has sought help from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and countries like India and China.