COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lankan security forces arrested several people Friday morning and evacuated the main camp that protesters have occupied for more than three months while demanding the resignation of the country’s leaders. an unprecedented economic collapse.
Army and police personnel arrived in trucks and buses around midnight, removing protest tents and banners from the site near the presidential palace in the capital, Colombo, where protesters gathered during of the last 104 days. They blocked the roads leading to the site and carried long poles.
Security forces witnessed the beatings of at least two journalists. The Sri Lanka Bar Association, the country’s main lawyers’ body, also said at least two lawyers were assaulted when they came to the protest site to offer advice. Its statement on Friday called for an end to “unjustified and disproportionate actions” by the armed forces against civilians.
The ruling against the protesters follows Thursday’s swearing-in of new President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was chosen by lawmakers earlier this week to complete the term of the leader who fled the country after protesters stormed his residence.
He now has the power to choose a prime minister to succeed him.
The months of protests have focused on ousted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his family’s political dynasty, but Wickremesinghe has also drawn their ire as a perceived substitute for Rajapaksa and an example of the country’s problematic political establishment.
Sri Lanka’s economic chaos has left the country’s 22 million people struggling with shortages of essentials, including medicine, fuel and food.
On Monday, in his role as interim president, Wickremesinghe declared a state of emergency which gave him broad authority to act in the interest of public safety and order. Authorities have broad powers to search premises and detain people, and Wickremesinghe can change or suspend any law.
On Friday, he issued a state of emergency notice calling on the armed forces to maintain public order. The emergency must be reviewed regularly by Parliament to decide whether to extend it or let it expire.
Wickremesinghe, 73, has extensive experience in diplomatic and international affairs and oversaw bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund. He said on Monday those talks were close to a conclusion and that talks on aid from other countries had also progressed. He also said the government had taken steps to address fuel and cooking gas shortages.
The Associated Press