This morning’s raid, with hundreds of military personnel and police armed with riot gear, at the protest camp in front of the Sri Lankan Presidential Palace came hours before the government-imposed disbandment deadline. determined. The campaign was held a day after Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as president.
Security forces clear barricades set up by protesters in front of the main gate of the building. An armored transport vehicle was dispatched to the area.
Protesters had previously pledged to return the presidential palace to the government this afternoon, more than a week since storming the building and demanding the resignation of former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa. They want to wait for Mr. Wickremesinghe’s new cabinet to officially begin his term.
According to eyewitnesses, the Sri Lankan army and police initially played over loudspeakers asking the protesters to withdraw and gather in a designated area near the protest building.
Security forces then moved in to remove tents along the main road leading to the Presidential Palace. Several activists were arrested. Police blocked some main roads leading to the protest area, preventing people from continuing to come.
Before taking office, the new President Wickremesinghe announced a strong crackdown on protests to restore order in Sri Lanka. The situation on the Indian Ocean island nation with 22 million people is deeply unstable because of a serious political and economic crisis.
Mr Wickremesinghe’s cabinet is expected to include members from multiple parties. The new government needs to find the fastest way out for the economy, which is seriously short of fuel, medicine and necessities because there is not enough foreign currency to import.
A Sri Lankan court on July 20 ordered protesters to partially disperse and only gather in designated areas.
Mr Wickremesinghe said that it was illegal for protesters to occupy government buildings. The government is ready to use all means to expel protesters from the area if they are determined not to leave voluntarily.
“If these people want to overthrow the government, occupy the Presidential office and the prime minister’s office, then they are acting undemocratic and against the law,” he said.
President Wickremesinghe said peaceful protesters were being provoked by “disruptive elements” and broke the law. He declared a state of emergency, empowered the police and armed forces, and allowed the arrest and detention of suspects for long periods of time without prosecution.
Anti-government protesters continue to accuse Mr Wickremesinghe of being a clan ally of former President Rajapaksa and not accepting the results of the July 20 vote in the country’s parliament.
The new President denied the suspicion that he covered and supported his predecessor. Speaking to the press at the Gangaramaya temple, he reaffirmed “not a friend of the Rajapaksa clan” and will be loyal to the people.
Name (Theo AFP)