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Sri Lankan protesters mark new year near president’s office

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA (AP) – Sri Lankans shared milk rice and oil cakes to celebrate their traditional new year yesterday opposite the president’s office, where they camped out for a sixth day demanding his resignation over the worst economic crisis in memory.

Soldiers who were disabled in the island nation’s civil war lit a hearth, Buddhist monks chanted religious verses and others set off firecrackers amid chants of: “Victory to the people’s struggle!”

Protesters are occupying the entrance and surroundings of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office, holding him responsible for the economic situation.

They also are calling for his powerful family to leave power, accusing them of corruption and misrule.

“Other days our children go to their grandparents to celebrate the new year, but today we brought them here to show them the real situation in the country,” said Dilani Niranjala, who attended the protest with her husband and two sons aged eight and 10.

“We don’t want to lie to them about what’s going on in the country and go to our village to celebrate the new year. From their younger days, they should see the truth and live with the truth,” she added.

Niranjala’s husband, Usitha Gamage, who works as a taxi driver, said he had been discouraged watching the news every morning about skyrocketing living costs.

Protesters receive traditional delicacy near the president’s office in Colombo, Sri Lanka. PHOTO: AP