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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Turmoil in Sri Lanka as thousands protest

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Protesters participate in an anti-government demonstration outside the Galle International Cricket Stadium in Galle on July 9, 2022. (Photo by ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP) (Photo by ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP via Getty Images) (Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images)

Thousands of anti-government demonstrators protested outside a stadium in Sri Lanka’s southern coastal city of Galle during the country’s Test cricket match against Australia, the world’s No. 1 ranked team, on Saturday.  

Local media showed videos of large crowds protesting against the government outside the Galle International Stadium, which is about a two-hour drive from Colombo. They waved Sri Lankan flags and carried banners with signs reading “Power to the people” and “GotaGoHome” — demanding President Gotabaya Rajapaksa step down over his handling of the country’s dire economic crisis.

Many protesters then defied a police ban to march to the top of a fort overlooking the stadium grounds, where they continued to hold banners and chant their demands.  

The protests didn’t stop the play, however.  

Australian cricket commentator Adam Collins, reporting from the stadium, described “extraordinary scenes in Galle.” 

“Protesters in cranes, others on the back of trucks – it’s intense out there now, louder than ever and going nowhere,” he said on Twitter, describing what it looked like outside the stadium.  

Amid economic turmoil and widespread protests in the island nation, the Australian cricket team arrived in Sri Lanka in the first week of June to play two Tests, five One Day Internationals (ODIs) and three Twenty20 International (T20Is) matches against the Lions. 

“We’ve been following closely, it’s something we’ve spoken about in our team meetings as well,” Australian captain Pat Cummins told reporters last week.  

“We’re so lucky to come here and experience Sri Lanka pretty normally. We’re certainly seeing the effects, even in the buses seeing the queues kilometres long around petrol stations, so that’s really hit home for us. No matter what the result is, we’re in a really privileged position. There’s a lot of people making this happen for us to play a bit of cricket,” he added.  

On Friday, Cummins tweeted, “Sri Lanka is facing its worst humanitarian crisis in decades,” and shared a video where he sat down with two Sri Lankan locals to talk about their experience and what’s happening on the ground. He also shared a UNICEF link and asked people to support Sri Lankan children impacted by the economic crisis. 


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