(Colombo) Sri Lankan police have been ordered to go on the offensive and fire live ammunition to avoid “anarchy” in the country, one of its officials announced on Wednesday, after another night of sporadic fires and two days of deadly clashes.
Since Monday, violence around anti-government protests has left eight dead and more than 225 injured, according to police, on this island of 22 million people mired in the worst economic crisis in its history.
“It’s no longer about spontaneous anger, but about organized violence,” a senior police official told AFP on Wednesday, announcing that his 85,000-strong force now has orders to fire bullets. real on the troublemakers.
“If the situation is not brought under control, it could turn into total anarchy,” he added, adding that the security of several threatened judges had also been reinforced.
After a luxury hotel owned by a member of the Rajapaksa clan in the south of the country was set on fire late Tuesday night, police fired in several places in the air to disperse crowds burning vehicles.
The army had for its part received on Tuesday evening the order to shoot on sight to suppress the riots.
The island’s population has been plagued by months of severe food, fuel and medicine shortages and power cuts, and peaceful protests have been calling for the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for weeks.
Supporters of the government, sent from the provinces to the capital Colombo on Monday and galvanized by his brother, the resigning Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, set fire to the powder by attacking the demonstrators.
At 76, the head of the Rajapaksa clan resigned from his post on Monday following the bloody clashes that followed. Shortly before dawn on Tuesday, he had to be exfiltrated by the army from his beleaguered official residence in Colombo.
This resignation is “an important event, people are really happy with it”, said Kaushalya Fernando, actress and rights activist.
But “that is not enough,” she insisted, adding, “We want the whole Rajapaksa clan out, they are so, so corrupt,” “they have eaten away at Sri Lanka like a caterpillar eats away at a fruit or leaf”.
The curfew, decreed shortly after the start of the clashes, was to be lifted on Wednesday morning, but was extended by 24 hours. Protesters defied it on Wednesday by maintaining their camps in front of the president’s office.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa remained in office and enjoys sweeping powers and command of the security forces.
According to Chandana Aluthge, professor of economics at the University of Colombo, the population is “fed up” and no longer has the luxury of relying on the democratic process.
“Even though in Sri Lanka, where we have achieved modern society status, the governance system is actually very close to a very old feudal system,” he points out.
President Rajapaksa on Wednesday called on Twitter “all Sri Lankans to join hands as one, to overcome economic, social and political challenges”.
But the main opposition party, the SJB, reaffirmed on Wednesday that it would not participate in a government under its authority.
“The violence is provoked (by the authorities) in order to establish a military regime”, denounced opposition leader Sajith Premadasa on Twitter, demanding that “the rule of law” be “upheld by the constitution and not by ARMS”.
Echoing calls from the United Nations and the European Union, the United States has expressed concern both about the escalation of violence and the deployment of the army.
“Peaceful protesters should never be subjected to violence or intimidation, whether by military or civilian units,” Department of Defense spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Tuesday. State, Washington.
Sri Lanka, in default on its external debt valued at $51 billion since April 12, is currently in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over a possible bailout.
“We are closely monitoring developments in Sri Lanka and are concerned about the rising social tensions and violence,” Masahiro Nozaki, IMF mission chief in Sri Lanka, said in a statement.