Cops lob tear gas shells at pupils protesting Lankan tsunami aid deal

Associated Press

Colombo, June 13:

Sri Lankan police lobbed tear gas shells and swung batons today to stop about 5,000 students who tried to reach the president’s house to protest a proposed deal to share tsunami aid with Tamil Tiger rebels, even as Sri Lanka’s president went into talks with opposition parties in a bid to drum up support after a key coalition partner threatened to quit over a tsunami aid deal with Tamil Tiger rebels, officials said. A Buddhist monk, Dambara Amila, who is fasting to protest the deal was moved to a separate location after one of the shells fell close to his makeshift hut near where the students were blocked, about 200 metres from president Chandrika Kumaratunga’s house in the city centre. “The situation is under control, but the incidents have created a huge traffic jam in the city,” police spokesman Rienzie Perera said. Ten student protesters were arrested.

Separately, monks warned the president today that they could enlist thousands of people to launch protest fasts if she does not scrap the plan for her government to join with Tamil Tiger rebels to distribute billions of dollars in aid to tsunami survivors. Amila started his fast on Saturday in Colombo, and the secretary of the National Clerics Front, Kalawelgala Chandraloka, held a news conference today to warn that the protests could be expanded drastically. “If the president thinks that one life is not enough, we can offer thousands of lives,” Chandraloka said. The Marxists have threatened to withdraw from Kumaratunga’s coalition — which could make the government collapse — if she does not renounce the plan by Wednesday evening. President Chandrika Kumaratunga was to meet opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe later in the day after discussions with several other political leaders, a spokesman for her office said.