Tear gas, water cannon fired on protesting Sri Lankan students

Hundreds of students march in Colombo to demand release of activists arrested during last year’s anti-gov’t protests.

Sri Lanka
Police using water cannons to disperse anti-government protesters during a demonstration in Colombo on September 24, 2022 [File: Ishara S Kodikara/AFP]

Authorities in Sri Lanka have fired tear gas and water cannons on hundreds of students protesting in the capital to demand the release of people arrested during last year’s anti-government protests.

The protesters on Wednesday said the imprisonment of dozens of students and activists amounted to political persecution.

Sri Lanka witnessed unprecedented months-long demonstrations last year that were sparked by the country’s worst-ever economic crisis.

The mass protests in the South Asian island nation of 22 million people resulted in the resignation and brief fleeing of then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Al Jazeera’s Minelle Fernandez, reporting from the outskirts of the capital Colombo, said “volleys of tear gas canisters and water cannons” were fired on the students.

She said the government was “going way over the top” in order to check the protests.

“University students have said that this kind of repression by the government is not going to stop them and silence them,” she said.

“They are saying the government’s campaign is to repress people and silence their voices, to stop the university movement which was involved in the anti-government movement we saw last year and led to a change in the government,” she added.

While Fernandez was live on air, she and the Al Jazeera cameraperson were also hit by a water cannon.

Earlier this year, seven human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, urged Sri Lanka to release a prominent student activist and raised concerns over an antiterrorism law that routinely denied bail to people arrested last year.

Source: Al Jazeera