Sri Lankan authorities deployed armored vehicles and troops to the streets of the capital, Colombo, on Wednesday May 11, two days after pro-government mobs attacked peaceful protesters.
The army has been ordered to shoot people suspected of taking part in the violence, which since Monday has left eight dead and more than 225 injured, according to the police, in this island of 22 million inhabitants.
After the fire late Tuesday evening at a luxury hotel belonging to a member of the Rajapaksa clan in the south of the country, police fired in several places in the air to disperse the crowd who were burning vehicles.
Protesters demand the resignation of the president
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 on Monday and galvanized by his brother, the resigning Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, set fire to the powder by attacking the demonstrators.
The 76-year-old chief 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 besieged official residence in Colombo.
This resignation is “an important event, people are really happy about it”, said Kaushalya Fernando, actress and rights activist. But “this is not enough,” she insisted, adding, “We want the entire Rajapaksa clan to leave. They are so, so corrupt”, “they have eaten away at Sri Lanka like a caterpillar eats away a fruit or a leaf”.
Curfew extended for 24 hours
The curfew, decreed shortly after the start of the clashes, was to be lifted on Wednesday morning but was extended by twenty-four hours. Protesters defied it on Wednesday by maintaining their camps in front of the president’s office.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who remained in office and enjoys sweeping powers and command of the security forces, on Wednesday called on Twitter for “all Sri Lankans to unite to overcome economic, social and political challenges”.
But the main opposition party, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), reiterated 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 the leader of the opposition, Sajith Premadasa, on Twitter, demanding that “the rule of law” be “maintained by the Constitution and not by arms”.
Pope Francis on Wednesday called on Sri Lankan authorities and rioters to “maintain peaceful behavior without giving way to violence” and to fully respect “human rights” and “civil liberties.”
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) for 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.