The photo shows a protest in 2017 when Sri Lanka's current ruling party was opposition

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A photo of a Sri Lankan minister is circulating in Facebook posts claiming he joined a protest by Sri Lankan opposition party Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) in November 2021. The claim is false; the picture was taken in 2017, when Ports and Shipping Minister Rohitha Abegunawardhana -- who was a member of the opposition at the time -- attended a protest against the then-government.

"Why are Gota sir's supporters calling Gota sir an unlucky loser?" reads a Sinhala-language Facebook post from November 16.

'Gota sir' refers to Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who marked two years in office on November 17.

The photo shows Sri Lankan Ports and Shipping Minister Rohitha Abegunawardhana -- pictured in a checkered shirt and holding a sheet of paper -- surrounded by people holding placards that read: "Two unlucky years".

Screenshot of the Facebook post captured on November 17, 2021

The same image was shared in similar Facebook posts here , here, here and here.

Sri Lanka's main opposition party Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) led protests against rising living costs across the country on November 16.

However, the claim is false; the photo does not show Abegunawardhana taking part in the November 16 marches.

A keyword search on Facebook led to a video published on August 18, 2017 by local television channel Hiru TV about a protest organised by then-opposition leaders to highlight what they saw as government failures two years after taking office.

The video shows the same placards seen in the photo shared in misleading posts. It also shows Abegunawardana -- seen in a checkered shirt and holding a sheet of paper -- participating in the protest from the 0:22 timestamp.

The Facebook post reads: "The joint opposition has organised a protest titled, 'Two unlucky years'. To mark the completion of two years since the election of the current government, the joint opposition today staged a protest in front of the Lipton Circus."

Below is a screenshot comparison of the image in the misleading post (left) and the Hiru News video (right) with similarities highlighted in red by AFP.

Screenshot comparison between the misleading posts' image (L) and Hiru News screen capture (R)

The slogan 'Two unlucky years' was posted in a Facebook post on August 17, 2017 by Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), which was the opposition party at the time.

Photos from another Facebook post published on August 18, 2017 feature similar scenes of then-MP Abegunawardhana taking part in the march.

The SLPP is currently the leading party of the coalition government in power after Rajapaksa was elected president in 2019.

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