Thousands of anti-government protesters demonstrated outside a stadium in the southern Sri Lankan coastal town of Galle on Saturday during the country’s cricket Test match against Australia, the world’s No.1 ranked team , Saturday.
Local media showed videos of large crowds protesting against the government outside the Galle International Stadium, located about two hours drive from Colombo. They waved Sri Lankan flags and held up banners with signs reading “People Power” and “GotaGoHome” – demanding that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resign over his handling of the country’s severe economic crisis.
Many protesters then defied a police ban on marching to the top of a fort overlooking the stadium grounds, where they continued to hold banners and chant their demands.
The protests didn’t stop the game, however.
Australian cricket commentator Adam Collins, reporting from the stadium, described “extraordinary scenes in Galle”.
“Protesters in cranes, others in the back of trucks – it’s intense out there now, louder than ever and going nowhere,” he said on Twitterdescribing what it looked like outside the stadium.
Amid economic turmoil and widespread protests in the island nation, the Australian cricket team arrived in Sri Lanka the first week of June to play two Tests, five One Day Internationals (ODIs) and three Twenty20 matches International (T20I) against the Lions.
“We’ve been following closely, it’s something we’ve talked about in our team meetings as well,” Australia captain Pat Cummins told reporters last week.
“We are so lucky to come here and experience Sri Lanka quite normally. We certainly see the effects of that, even on buses that see the mile-long queues around gas stations, so it really touches us. Regardless of the outcome, we are in a truly privileged position. There are a lot of people making it happen so that we play a little cricket,” he added.
Friday, Cummins tweeted, “Sri Lanka is facing its worst humanitarian crisis in decades”, and shared a video in which he sat down with two Sri Lankan residents to talk about their experience and what is happening on the ground. He also shared a link with UNICEF and asked people to support Sri Lankan children affected by the economic crisis.