Protesters in Sri Lanka demanding local elections clash with police

Police in Sri Lanka have used tear gas and water cannon against thousands of protesters angry over the government's decision to postpone local elections.

With the country in the grip of an economic crisis, supporters of an opposition party staged a huge rally in Colombo on Sunday, demanding council elections be held as scheduled next week.

A local hospital said it treated about 15 injured people.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has refused to bankroll the vote, saying the country's crippled economy means funds are only available for essential items.

Wickremesinghe took office last July after country-wide anti-government protests forced then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country and resign.

The local polls are seen as a de facto referendum on unpopular austerity measures introduced by the new president as he seeks a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

Last September, the country reached a preliminary agreement with the IMF on borrowing 2.9 billion dollars. But it can only be finalized if Sri Lanka's creditors, including China, the biggest of them, agree to debt restructuring.

The Election Commission said in a short statement that a fresh date for the elections will be announced Friday.