A general strike called by hundreds of trade unions in Sri Lanka demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government has hit public life across the island.
Schools and businesses were closed, public and private transportation interrupted and banks partially shut in support of the one-day strike on Thursday, which came amid a growing economic and political crisis in the country.
“This one of the biggest general strikes launched by workers, with more than 1,000 trade unions supporting the action,” trade union activist Wasantha Samarasinghe said.
The general strike was held as thousands of people continue to protest opposite the president’s office in capital Colombo for the 20th consecutive day, asking him and his elder brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, to step down.
Some of the protesters are also camped out at the premier’s residence located two km away from the president’s office.
Protests are also being held on a regular basis in towns across the Indian Ocean island nation, which is on the verge of bankruptcy with huge foreign debts and a foreign currency crisis, causing shortages of imported essential goods like fuel and food.
Meanwhile, the main opposition leader in parliament, Sajith Premadasa, is currently leading a six-day march into the capital by Sunday to coincide May Day celebrations.
President Rajapaksa has summoned all parties to parliament on Friday to look into the possibility of forming an interim government.
The whole cabinet except the president and prime minister resigned in early April, and the president invited opposition parties for a unity government.
But opposition parties refused to be part of a government headed by the Rajapaksas, who have dominated nearly every aspect of life in Sri Lanka for most of the last 20 years.
Sri Lanka is reeling under its worst economic crisis since independence from the British rule in 1948. The shortages of dollars to purchases fuel, gas and medicines have resulted in high inflation and long queues outsides stores and fuel stations.
The government has sought help from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and countries like India and China.