Sri Lanka: millions of people join the general strike for the resignation of the Rajapaksa government

On Thursday, millions of workers across Sri Lanka took part in a one-day general strike demanding the resignation of President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and his government. The workers almost unanimously followed the call for a strike: employees of the public sector, state-owned enterprises and private industry.

Part of the demonstration in Colombo during the April 28 general strike (WSWS Media) [Photo: WSWS]

Workers from state ports, electricity, oil and water companies, railways, health care and education, as well as state, provincial and municipal officials took part in the strike. Only a handful of employees – members of the ruling party – showed up to work in ports and oil companies.

Most state and private bank workers left, as did hundreds of thousands of plantation workers in central plantation districts. Plantation workers, who are among the most oppressed sections of the Sri Lankan working class, have been particularly hard hit by the economic crisis.

Workers from the country’s many free trade zones, including Katunayake, Wathupitiwele and Koggala, also participated. Most of the workers in the free trade zones are very young.

Although the unions limited the strike to a single day, it was a powerful and significant intervention by the working class in the deepening of Sri Lanka’s political and social crisis.

Sri Lanka is heavily indebted and its economy has been further hit by the coronavirus pandemic and NATO’s proxy war against Russia in Ukraine. The consequences were strong and persistent price increases and shortages of food, fuel and other basic necessities.

The nationwide anti-government protests and rallies, involving hundreds of thousands of people, and Thursday’s general strike are part of a growing global wave in working class struggles against government attempts to impose austerity measures on them. .

The turmoil was mainly triggered by runaway inflation, shortages of basic necessities such as food, medicine and fuel, and daily power outages.

In early April, workers and young people began mass demonstrations calling for the resignation of President Rajapksa and his government. Other demonstrations followed throughout April, including a three-week occupation of Galle Face Green in downtown Colombo.

The official inflation rate in Sri Lanka is 18.7 percent, for food it is 30.2 percent. However, Johns Hopkins University Professor Steve Hanke last week estimated the real inflation rate as high as 119%, which would be the third highest in the world.

Striking workers protested in all major cities on Thursday. Sometimes poor peasants joined them, and in many countries there was the support of small traders who closed their shops.

Healthcare workers demonstrate outside Kandy Municipal Hospital on April 28, 2022 (WSWS Media)

In Colombo, more than 5,000 port, oil, rail and power plant workers, bank employees and teachers demonstrated in front of the Fort train station and marched to Galle Face Green.

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