Hundreds in Mississauga demand resignation of Sri Lankan president

·3 min read
Protesters in Celebration Square chanted
Protesters in Celebration Square chanted

Hundreds of Sri Lankan Canadians gathered on Sunday at Mississauga's Celebration Square to demand that the Sri Lankan government step down from power.

Organizers say the demonstration was held in solidarity with Sri Lankan people who have been protesting against their government since March. On Saturday, protesters in Sri Lanka stormed the President's residence, the President's office, and the Prime Minister's residence.

"We're standing in solidarity with our fellow Sri Lankans to request our existing president and prime minister step down," Julian Devika Anthony, one of the protesters in Mississauga, said.

"They robbed the country, people are starving, there's no health care, no education, we want them to step down immediately."

CBC
CBC

A years-long economic crisis has led to a shortage of essential items such as food, fuel, and medicine. High inflation across the world has exacerbated conditions in an already strained economy in the South Asian island-nation.

Protesters are demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his administration, which includes former president and prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, also his brother. The Rajapaksa family is one of the country's most powerful families, where many members have occupied senior positions in government.

'They robbed the country'

Protesters say the family's corruption has made economic problems worse.

"This present government is just one family," Don Perrera said in Celebration Square. "They robbed the country, sold the country for nothing, and brought it to its knees."

Perrera echoed the demands of protesters back in Sri Lanka by requesting the current government be dissolved and elections take place immediately under a caretaker government. He wants to see an independent judiciary and a democracy where Sri Lankans of all backgrounds are treated equally.

"We were once a proud nation, a prosperous nation, this family brought the country to its knees," he added.

CBC
CBC

When protests erupted in Sri Lanka in March, the government declared a state of emergency, imposed a nationwide curfew, and restricted social media access.

After the President's House (President's residence), the Presidential Secretariat (President's office), and Temple Trees (Prime Minister's residence) were occupied by protesters on Saturday, the speaker of the parliament issued a statement saying Gotabaya would resign on July 13. Meanwhile, the country's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he would also resign after a new government is formed.

Protesters in Sri Lanka, meanwhile, remain in the residential and government complexes, refusing to leave until they see their demands for resignation fulfilled.

"The last three months is a result of the last 30 to 40 years of what politicians have done," Rohana Wijayawardena said. "The Rajapaksa family should be held accountable."

In Mississauga, the protesters chanted "Gota, Go Home" in reference to the current president, and said they want Canada, and the world to pay attention to the events in their homeland.

"We want the Canadian government to be vigilant of what's happening in Sri Lanka," Asoka Jayalathe said. "Our people have no food, no electricity, no schools, no transportation."

She added that despite peaceful protests in Sri Lanka, the government has responded with beatings and tear gas, and has made several arrests.

"I want the world to know the truth."

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