Colombo - Protests against rising fuel prices continued across Sri Lanka today. After a brief pause, thousands of people took to the streets again yesterday. Police responded by attacking demonstrators with tear gas, water cannons and guns. In the North Western Province, a fisherman was killed and more were wounded. This is the first time that multiple protests have been organised in the capital Colombo and other parts of the island nation.
Fuel prices went up overnight on Saturday. Diesel is now LKR 31 a litre (US$ 0.25), gasoline is now LKR 12 (US$ 0.10) a litre and kerosene is LKR 35 (US$ 0.30). This decision could cripple most Sri Lankans, especially small-scale fishermen and bus companies. A fibber replaced plastic (FRP) boat can cost LRK 3,000 (US$ 25) in fuel a day. With the new prices, it will be LKR 4,500 (US$ 37.5). Bus fares could also rise by 20 per cent, harming ordinary people.
"People are taking to the streets because they no longer believe politicians' promises," said human rights activist Jehan Perera, who is also executive director of the National Peace Council.
"The government is not solving their problems but is only trying to avoid them. The opposition is weak and cannot help meet people's needs. It is noteworthy that protest leaders are ordinary people, not party officials."
"The government is at a crossroad," said Kusal Perera, political analyst and activist. "During the civil war, so many needs were put on hold. Now, two and half years after the end of the war, there is no development, no order and no legality. The minimum wage in the public sector is LKR 17,800 (US$ 150), but in the private sector, it is only LKR 7,900 (US$ 66)."
"In 2010, the Government Census and Statistics Department calculated that a family of four needs LKR 34,000 (US$ 285) to have enough food and essential items like, fuel, clothing, health and school for children, etc. Now, people must cope with a high cost of living as well as rising fuel prices. The war is over and the government has no excuses: It must meet people's demands."