Clashes between anti-government protesters and supporters of the prime minister left five dead and more than 180 injured.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned on Monday, May 9, shortly after clashes between his supporters and anti-government protesters left five dead, including a deputy, and more than 180 injured, the deadliest day in three weeks.
For several weeks the country has been mired in demonstrations denouncing the government’s inability to address food, fuel and medicine shortages, the most serious economic crisis it has known since its independence in 1948. Mahinda Rajapaksa, 76, sent his letter of resignation to his younger brother and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. His departure automatically leads to the dissolution of the Cabinet. “I resign with immediate effect so that you can appoint a multi-party government to lead the country out of the current economic crisisThe Prime Minister said in his letter.
‘We got hit’
And the situation did not appear to subside on Monday evening, especially around his official residence in Colombo, which is besieged by thousands of anti-government protesters. An AFP journalist reported that shots were fired from the house after protesters smashed the entrance gate and set a truck parked there on fire. Police claimed that they fired in the air to repel the attackers from the compound, where Mahinda Rajapaksa is holed up with his supporters. She also fired tear gas grenades at the protesters, bent on revenge after they were attacked earlier in the day by government supporters.
Monday was the bloodiest day since the suppression of an anti-government demonstration on April 19 in the center of the country (one dead, 24 wounded). Police said ruling party MP Amarakeerthi Athukorala killed himself in Nittambuwa, about 50 kilometers north of the capital, after he opened fire on two anti-government protesters who were blocking his car. Police added without further details that one of the two victims, a 27-year-old, died of his injuries, and the deputy’s bodyguard was found dead.
The police said that two other people were killed in the town of Wirakitia (south), where a member of the ruling party opened fire on the demonstrators. Armed with sticks and batons, thousands of supporters of the Rajapaksa brothers attacked unarmed protesters who had been camping outside the president’s office since April 9 to demand his departure on Monday on the waterfront in the capital Colombo. AFP journalists note. “We were beaten, the media was beaten, the women and children were beaten‘,” an eyewitness told AFP, on condition of anonymity.
Violence will not solve current problems.
Police also fired tear gas and used water cannons to disperse the protesters, before declaring an immediate indefinite curfew across the island of 22 million people. A spokesman for the city’s National Hospital told AFP that a total of 181 people had been taken to hospital. Authorities said eight other people were injured elsewhere. In the south of the island, angry mobs also attacked and completely destroyed the controversial Rajapaksa Museum in the family’s ancestral village.
“Violence will not solve current problems“President Rajapaksa tweeted, deploring”resolutely violent acts“.”We condemn the violence perpetrated against peaceful protesters today and call on the government to conduct a thorough investigation, including the arrest and prosecution of all those who incited the violence.She also confirmed on Twitter Julie Chung, the US ambassador, calling for calm.
President Rajapaksa, on Friday, declared a state of emergency for the second time in five weeks, granting sweeping powers to the security forces, including allowing them to arrest suspects and detain them for long periods without judicial oversight. It also authorizes the deployment of soldiers to maintain order, in support of the police. This unprecedented economic crisis started after the COVID-19 pandemic, which deprived the country of foreign currency from the tourism sector. The government then banned many imports, causing shortages, accelerating inflation, and increasingly prolonged power outages, sparking anger against the authorities.
see also Sri Lanka: The opposition rejects any national unity and wants the president’s resignation