A general strike, or hartal is underway across Sri Lanka since this morning. Shops have not opened since the morning and black flags have been put up in marketplaces in protest. In villages and smaller towns too, Sri Lankans have taken to the streets. The forms of protests vary, including cooking on streets.
A country-wide daylong general strike or hartal has been called by about 2,000 trade unions and market associations in tandem with opposition lawmakers in Sri Lanka today. The striking unions have joined the opposition to demand that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government step down.
One person has been shot at by the police and roads leading to the Parliament, the President’s residence and other strategic spots have been cordoned off by the police, putting these places out of bound for the general public and the strikers.
Shops have not opened since the morning and black flags have been put up in marketplaces in protest. In villages and smaller towns too, Sri Lankans have taken to the streets. The forms of protests vary, including cooking on streets.
Today’s hartal comes with significant political connotations. It echoes a similar island-wide ‘hartal’ 69 years ago in Sri Lanka in 1953 and coincides with Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s 69 million votes in the presidential election.
Strikers say that if the President and his government do not step down, all work in the country will be suspended indefinitely beginning May 11 with the commencement of an island-wide hartal.
Services come to standstill
Almost every service sector, including shops, transport, banking, health, power and education are observing the 24-hour hartal.
Ravi Kumudesh, convenor of the union alliance and Sri Lankan representative of the international trade union IndustriAll told reporters that the strikers would also be joined by the railway union alliance, teachers and principals union as well as the Ceylon Bank Employees’ Union.
“We have decided to support the hartal tomorrow by going on a one-day strike. We have more than 18 state and private banks and also unions of the central bank with us. They have confirmed their participation and as a result all banks and their branches will be closed tomorrow,” a spokesperson for the Ceylon Bank Employees’ Union said.
The health workers joining the strike include nurses. The Sri Lankan Nurses Association and also the country’s Public Health Officers Union has announced their support for the hartal. A spokesperson for the two unions requested the general public not to come to health centres, except in case of emergencies.
Ravi Kumudesh also claimed that even fishers would not go out to sea on the day, joining the hartal.
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