COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka police on Tuesday arrested three prominent opposition lawmakers, including the son of a former president, for leading a protest against government plans to privatize an airport that is named after the ex-strongman.
Namal Rajapaksa, son of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was arrested Tuesday with two other lawmakers, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said.
Police previously arrested 28 people following last Friday’s protest. Opposition supporters clashed with police, who fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of demonstrators opposing the government’s plans to privatize Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport.
The government has said the $210 million (US dollars) airport, funded by a Chinese loan, is a white elephant built during Rajapaksa’s regime and that it was considering selling shares to an Indian investor.
The former president, who was ousted from power in 2015, opened the airport in March 2013 in his hometown of Hambantota, about 240 kilometers (150 miles) south of the capital of Colombo.
Several airlines initially flew there, but most left due to the low demand, leaving it to become one of world’s emptiest airports. The facility has become a tourist attraction for visitors who can buy a ticket to see the installations inside.
The government’s offer to sell the airport came after it signed an agreement in July to sell a 70 percent stake in a $1.5 billion port to China for 99 years in a bid to recover from the heavy burden of repaying a Chinese loan obtained to build the facility.