At least three of the 13 hospitalised protesters at Rambukkana, some 90 kilometers northeast of Colombo, were critical at the Kegalle hospital, according to officials. Fifteen police personnel have also been injured.
Police chief Chandana Wickremaratne told reporters that the police curfew imposed in the area would continue.
“Protesters got violent yesterday and blocked the railway track. They were demanding fuel at the old price having waited in the fuel queue for a long time,” he said.
When the police arranged two fuel bowsers, the protesters took out the battery of one of the vehicles, blocking the railway track, Wickremaratne said.
“The police used minimum force by firing tear gas,” the police chief said.
The death of a protester was the first during the ongoing protests over the worst-ever economic crisis in the country’s history.
Top bureaucrat of the public security ministry Jagath Alwis said the protesters tried to set on fire a fuel tanker having 33,000 liters of fuel.
The police were forced to open fire to prevent the bowser being set in flames by the protesters.
Alwis said a three-member probe committee has been appointed to probe if the police had used excessive power in opening the fire at protesters.
The embassies of the US, the EU and the UN resident coordinator have issued statements condemning the police shooting.
The latest fuel price hike on Monday night triggered street protests in many areas on Tuesday.
Oil entities in the island nation have been hiking the price regularly due to the shortage of fuel.
Meanwhile, the trade unions have collectively said that they would launch a black protest to force the resignation of the government for bungling on the ongoing economic crisis.
“We would hold a picketing campaign wearing black,” the teachers’ trade union boss Joseph Stalin said.
On Tuesday, the federation of university teachers staged a walk in solidarity with the main anti-government protest being held at Galle Face at the entry to the presidential secretariat.
The Galle Face protest enters its 12th day on Wednesday.
Sri Lanka is grappling with unprecedented economic turmoil since independence from Britain in 1948. The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.
The island nation is witnessing large-scale protests against the government’s handling of the debt-ridden economy – the worst-ever economic crisis in the country’s history.
Protests demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his Sri Lanka Podujana (Peramuna)-led government have intensified as shortages continued and prices soared.
Last week, the Sri Lankan government said it would temporarily default on USD 35.5 billion in foreign debt as the pandemic and the war in Ukraine made it impossible to make payments to overseas creditors.