Sri Lanka Deploys Troops Amid Economic Protests

Sri Lankan officials said the government deployed soldiers at hundreds of petrol stations to help distribute fuel after a sudden rise in prices of goods, which forced tens of thousands of people to queue for hours.

Officials said on Tuesday that the decision to position troops near petrol pumps and kerosene supply points came after three elderly dropped dead during their wait in long queues.

“At least two army personnel will be deployed at every fuel pump,” military spokesman Nilantha Premaratne said.

Premaratne noted that the soldiers would help organize fuel distribution but would not be involved in crowd control.

The move was also a response to complaints of stockpiling and inefficient distribution, said government spokesman Ramesh Pathirana.

“The military has been deployed to help the public, not to curtail their human rights,” Pathirana added.

Tension over the scarcity of supplies has led to sporadic violence among residents panicking to buy fuel and other essential items.

Sri Lanka has been battling a foreign exchange crisis that forced the devaluation of its currency and hit payments for essential imports such as food, medicine, and fuel, and has prompted the government to seek an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout.

Last week, authorities postponed term tests for millions of students because of a lack of paper and ink.

On Wednesday, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office announced a summit of all political parties to discuss the economic crisis, but opposition groups said they planned to boycott the meeting.

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