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Sri Lanka PM expects police to investigate after anti-government protests turn deadly

Sri Lanka Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on Wednesday said he expects the police to investigate clashes between police officers and anti-government protesters that led to the first death in weeks of civil unrest.

Sri Lanka PM expects police to investigate after anti-government protests turn deadly
Sri Lanka Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa

Colombo: Police fired live ammunition to scatter protesters on Tuesday in Rambukkana, a town around three hours northeast of the commercial capital Colombo, killing one person and injuring a dozen more. Demonstrations have raged across the South Asian island of 22 million people for weeks, with people voicing anger against what they perceive as government mishandling of the economy that has led to shortages of essentials and prolonged power cuts.

"Deeply distressed following the tragedy in Rambukkana," Rajapaksa said in a tweet. "I have every confidence that a strict, impartial investigation will be carried out." On Wednesday, Rambukkana was calm, with minimal security presence on the streets. A four-member police forensics team combed the area around a railway crossing where the clashes took place yesterday.

Rocks, live ammunition casings and tear gas shells were still strewn across the area. Tuesday's death was the first fatality since largely peaceful protests began last month.

It comes as Sri Lankan officials meet with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a potential emergency loan programme, aimed at staving off a shortage of fuel and other essentials. The IMF on Wednesday said discussions are at an early stage and that any deal would require "adequate assurances" that Sri Lanka can resolve the unsustainability of its debt situation.

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