Since Monday, violence around anti-government protests has left eight dead and more than 225 injured, according to police, in this island of 22 million people mired in the worst economic crisis in its history.

“It is no longer a question of spontaneous anger, but of organized violence,” a senior police official told AFP on Wednesday, announcing that his forces, 85,000 strong, now have orders to fire live ammunition. 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 who were burning vehicles.

The army had received on Tuesday evening the order to shoot on sight to suppress the riots.

– “So corrupt” –

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 office 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 with it,” said Kaushalya Fernando, actress and rights activist.

But “that’s not enough”, she insisted, adding: “We want the whole Rajapaksa clan gone, they are so, so corrupt”, “they have eaten away at Sri Lanka like a caterpillar eats away at a fruit or a leaf”.

– Extended curfew –

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 camp 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 system of governance is actually very close to a very old feudal system,” he said.

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.

– “Violence is provoked” –

“The violence is provoked (by the authorities) in order to establish a military regime”, denounced the leader of the opposition Sajith Premadasa on Twitter, claiming that “the rule of law” be “maintained by the constitution and not by ARMS”.

Echoing calls from the United Nations and the European Union, the United States 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 from the military or civilian units,” Ned Price, spokesman for the Department of Defense, told reporters on Tuesday. State, Washington.

Sri Lanka, in default on its external debt estimated at 51 billion dollars since April 12, is currently in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a possible bailout.

“We are closely monitoring developments in Sri Lanka and are concerned about the rise in social tensions and violence,” Masahiro Nozaki, IMF mission chief in Sri Lanka, said in a statement.


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