Sri Lanka. One dead and 12 injured as police fire on anti-fuel price hike protesters

Colombo, April 19 (IANS): One person was killed and 12 others injured when police fired on protesters who took to the streets in central Sri Lanka against an overnight fuel price hike in the troubled island nation.

Protests erupted across the country on Tuesday after state-owned Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) raised fuel prices to a record high at midnight on Monday.

In Rambukka, 85 km from Colombo, demonstrators demanded fuel stored in service stations at old prices. Later they blocked all roads and railways in Rambukka, completely cutting off access to the town.

Police first used tear gas to disperse the crowd, then opened fire, killing one man and injuring 12 others.

Police said they had to open fire as protesters had turned violent.

“The protesters had blocked the railway line with a tanker. The crowd tried to set the tanker on fire and the police had to fire to control the crowd,” SSP spokesman Nihal Thalduwa said.

The country’s public transport system has come to a complete halt after protesters across the country blocked roads in major cities throughout the day.

Private bus owners withdrew their buses in protest at rising fuel prices, calling on the government to step down.

The CPC had earlier announced an increase of LKR 84 for 92 octane petrol, matching the IOC price of LKR 338 per litre. The price of diesel has also been raised to LKR 289, an increase of LKR 113.

Following the rise in fuel prices, the country’s bus fair was increased by 35%, while the tariffs of a number of food products were also raised.

Fuel prices have trended north with the depreciation of the Sri Lankan rupee against the US dollar since early March when the US dollar allowed free floating.

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