SL military warns of tough action against violent protesters

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Amid mounting protests and vandalisation of properties of politicians, Sri Lanka’s military on Tuesday warned the protesters of severe action if they resort to violence.

Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary, General (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne, who said the military is strictly monitoring the protests, urged the public to refrain from violence.

Gunaratne said that there are two groups of protesters — one conducting peaceful protests while the other group is deliberately engaging in violent protests in an organised manner.

He reiterated that staging peaceful protests amid Emergency law is a right of the people, but the security forces would not hesitate to enforce the law against those involved in violence.

The country’s police also announced that it would arrest protesters indulging in violence using video evidence.

After the Cabinet resigned on Monday, mass protests erupted around Colombo, including at the heavily-guarded office of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and at his brother Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s official residence — Temple Trees — in the heart of the city.

The protests continued till late on Monday night. During the day, the President’s younger brother and former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa’s house in Colombo suburbs and elder brother and former minister Chamal Rajapaksa’s house were surrounded by the protesters.

The agitation spread to other parts as well with protesters attacking the houses of government lawmakers. The agitators also surrounded Rajapaksa’s house in his hometown Tangalle in southern in Sri Lanka, while the houses of nearly 10 former Cabinet ministers were surrounded, leading to damage of properties including vehicles.

The police had to use tear gas to disperse the protesters, while four people were injured during an attack on former Petroleum Minister Gamini Lokuge.

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday urged the Speaker to take action to control the protesters attacking politicians.

“The protests started against the Executive President and then the government. By Monday, many houses of MPs were surrounded by the people. The anger against the ruling party politicians has now extended to all politicians in the country. We must control this situation,” Wickremesinghe warned.

On Tuesday artistes, professional, lawyers, university and the Catholic Church which has accused Rajapaksa government for the Easter Sunday attack conducted protests against the government in Colombo.

The security in and around the Parliament has been tightened when the House proceedings started on Tuesday for the first time since the political crisis broke out in the island nation.

All the lawmakers had to enter the Parliament via the backdoor entrance as the road to the main entrance to the Parliament was blocked by the protesters.

Burdened by months long sufferings due to lack of fuel, LPG, medicine, food and extensive power cuts, the protesters on Thursday night surrounded the President’s private residence at Mirihana in Colombo suburbs.

The police used teargas and water cannons on the protesters, who demanded President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign.

Later, they were beaten up by the police and the military and over 50 were arrested. Amid the pressure, the Cabinet was dissolved on Sunday night. The President invited the opposition parties to join the Cabinet which was turned down.

Amid protests around the country, President Rajapaksa has refused to step down but has agreed to hand over power to whoever proving 113-seat majority in the Parliament.

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