Curfew in Sri Lanka after president loyalists attack protesters; 78 injured

Police fired tear gas and water cannon on the government supporters who breached police lines to smash tents and other structures set up by anti-government protesters.
People block a road as they wait for the gas trucks to arrive at the station to distribute for them amid the country's economic crisis in Colombo, (REUTERS)
People block a road as they wait for the gas trucks to arrive at the station to distribute for them amid the country's economic crisis in Colombo, (REUTERS)
Updated on May 09, 2022 06:04 PM IST
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By | Written by Aniruddha Dhar, New Delhi

Sri Lankan authorities imposed a nationwide curfew and deployed the army on Monday after government supporters clashed with demonstrators demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

News agency AFP reported that as many as 78 people have been injured in the clashes. Rajapaksa supporters armed with sticks and clubs attacked unarmed protesters camping outside the president's office since April 9, AFP added.

Police fired tear gas and water cannon on the government supporters who breached police lines to smash tents and other structures set up by anti-government protesters.

Hours later, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned. Rajapaksa's spokesman Rohan Weliwita said the 76-year-old sent his letter of resignation to his younger brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, clearing the way for a "new unity government".

"I am resigning with immediate effect so that you will be able to appoint an all-party government to guide the country out of the current economic crisis," the prime minister said in the letter, seen by AFP.

The violence took place even as reports on Monday indicated that Mahinda Rajapksa might offer to resign as Prime Minister as pressure mounted on the embattled government led by his younger brother and President Gotabaya to form an interim administration to overcome the worst economic crisis facing the country.

Rajapaksa was gathering his supporters to apply counterpressure not to stand down, news agency PTI reported.

Also Read | ‘Goons, thugs’: Ex-Sri Lanka cricketers slam Rajapaksas after Colombo clashes

"While emotions are running high in #lka, I urge our general public to exercise restraint & remember that violence only begets violence. The economic crisis we're in needs an economic solution which this administration is committed to resolving," PM Mahinda tweeted.

President Gotabaya said he “strongly condemn the violent acts”.

“Strongly condemn the violent acts taking place by those inciting & participating, irrespective of political allegiances. Violence won’t solve the current problems. I request all citizens to remain calm & exercise restraint. I urge everyone to work together in solving this crisis,” he tweeted.

A report by Daily Mirror, an online news platform, suggests that a group of supporters of Mahinda attacked the protesters outside the 'MainaGoGama', a protest site near Temple Trees, the official residence of the Prime Minister.

The tents opposite Temple Trees were dismantled by a mob, Lanka First, it added.

The police formed a human chain to prevent the protesters from entering GotaGoGama. However, the mob pushed their way past the police human chain and attacked GotaGoGama.

Riot police called in to manage the situation.

Opposition leader of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya Sajith Premadasa visited the GotaGoGama protest site to assess the situation. He was also attacked by the protesters, the Daily Mirror newspaper reported.

A curfew was enforced in Colombo with immediate effect after the violence.

The 'MainaGoGama' protest site was set up demanding the resignation of Mahinda.

Hundreds of supporters of the Prime Minister have been brought in buses while some others marched to the Temple Trees to show support to the premier against the call for his resignation, Colombo Page news portal reported.

The demonstrators insisted that Rajapaksa remain in office and not resign.

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