Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa says he is deeply distressed by violence in the town of Rambukkana and hopes for a fair investigation after the first death during weeks of demonstrations.

Police have enforced a curfew in Rambukkana, where a demonstrator was killed after a rally protesting the country's economic crisis turned violent.
Police have enforced a curfew in Rambukkana, where a demonstrator was killed after a rally protesting the country's economic crisis turned violent. (AFP)

Sri Lanka Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has said he expects police to properly investigate a confrontation with anti-government protesters that led to the first death in weeks of civil unrest over an economic crisis.

"Deeply distressed following the tragedy in Rambukkana," Rajapaksa said on Twitter on Wednesday. "I have every confidence that a strict, impartial investigation will be carried out."

Police fired live ammunition to scatter protesters in Rambukkana town, around 95 kilometres (60 miles) east of the commercial capital Colombo, killing one person and wounding a dozen on Tuesday.

Rambukkana was calm on Wednesday with minimal security on the streets, after authorities extended a curfew. 

Shops were closed through the morning. A four-member police forensics team combed the area around the railway crossing where the violence took place.

Police also cordoned off part of a petrol station that too saw a flare-up. Rocks, ammunition casings and spent tear gas canisters were strewn about.

Police say the demonstrators had blocked railway tracks and roads and ignored police warnings to disperse before the shooting. They also say protesters threw rocks at them.

READ MORE: Sri Lanka to reduce president's powers in a bid to end turmoil

Widespread protests

Public Security Minister Prasanna Ranatunga told parliament the shooting happened after protesters tried to set fire to a tanker.

"Police acted according to the law," he said. "This shooting happened after police did everything they could to bring this situation under control. We will conduct multiple investigations."

The incident comes as Sri Lankan officials meet the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to discuss an emergency loan programme to tackle the shortage of fuel and other essentials.

The IMF said the discussions were at an early stage and any deal would require "adequate assurances" that Sri Lanka could resolve its unsustainable debt situation.

Demonstrators have roiled the South Asian island nation of 22 million people for weeks. Thousands of people across Sri Lanka took to the streets again on Wednesday.

They used vehicles to block key roads in many parts of the country as they demonstrated against Tuesday's shooting as well as skyrocketing prices.

Protesters are infuriated by what they see as the government's mishandling of the economy that has led to shortages of fuel and other items and brought prolonged power cuts.

READ MORE: Sri Lanka leader appoints new ministers, drops some relatives from cabinet

Source: TRTWorld and agencies