Sri Lankan MPs, loyal to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, on Wednesday took part in a massive protest rally in capital Colombo. Businesses, shops and schools closed by noon, resulting in Colombo coming to a virtual halt.
The protest titled ‘Janabalaya Colombata’ was spearheaded by Rajapaksa’s eldest son and MP, Namal Rajapaksa.
The JO expected over 200,000 protesters from all across the country to take part in the rally held at the Fort, the heart of Colombo’s business hub.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in a statement on Wednesday that September 5th was not a public holiday. He said many people including school children had arrived in the city and the government could not let them be affected by the protest.
The usually busy roads of Colombo remained silent and many schools closed by 12 noon ahead of the protest which was set to begin at 2pm. Despite an earlier statement by the JO that the protest would end at 7pm, MP Udaya Gammanpila said protesters would sit through the night into Thursday.
Police said that over 5000 additional police officers had been deployed across the city to maintain law and order. Riot police, the STF and heavy military trucks were seen roaming around Colombo since early Wednesday morning.
The JO, had for months been preparing for the protest which is being held against the existing high cost of living, economic instability, and the government’s policies.