Early Friday, Sri Lankan forces stormed the major anti-government protest camp in Colombo, arrested several protestors, and destroyed tents. In addition, a large number of police commandos along with military forces raided the protestors outside the presidential offices in the capital, some hours before they were due to leave the place. On the other hand, soldiers beat one BBC video journalist, snatched his smartphone, and deleted videos.
Sri Lankan security forces carried out a violent raid on the main anti-government demonstrators’ camp in Colombo, destroying tents, beating demonstrators, and arresting 9 people. Thousands of armed troops and police personnel stormed the Gota Go Gama camp.#SriLanka #violentraid pic.twitter.com/dbjAZMFOWJ
— Live News Now (@LiveNewsNow6) July 22, 2022
Police forces arrested nine protestors, including two injured. At the same time, the scene was created as Ranil Wickremesinghe took the oath as the country’s president on the 21st of July after the former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa left the country last week. Ranil Wickremesinghe, the former Sri Lankan Prime Minister, pledged severe action against protestors.
The country has seen several months of mass demonstrations amid the countrywide economic and financial crisis. Journalists, experts, and common people all over the country blamed the former government for mismanaging the country’s finances. However, demonstrators remained peaceful after Wickremesinghe took the oath as the country’s new president on Wednesday. Despite extreme distrust, several protestors announced to give time and a chance to lead the nation out of the current economic crisis.
In the morning today, Sri Lankan security forces raided the protest camp and recaptured the building from protestors, who previously vowed to return the building to troops. According to the police officials, it was a special operation to reclaim the control of the presidential secretariat. The raid occurred today at around 01:00 am as hundreds of security personnel surrounded the Gota Go Gama protest camp.
Concerns of U.S. and U.K. Diplomats
Earlier this month, demonstrators seized the secretariat, prime minister, and president’s official residencies, but the armed forces recaptured the entire area with several troops visible inside the building boundary. After that, however, the protestors handed back the residences to government officials. According to Chameera Dedduwage, the protest organizer told Reuters that they had already decided to return the presidential secretariat to government officials on Friday afternoon.
Britain and the United States diplomats raised their concern over the recent developments in the country. Julie Chung, the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka, tweeted that the U.S. urged arrest by concerned officials and instant access to medical attention for those injured. The Sri Lankan Bar Association also stated that the security forces’ crackdown could further destabilize the country, which needs a bailout from IMF (the International Monetary Fund) and foreign aid.
The collective of lawyers stated that using armed security forces to overwhelm civilian demonstrators on the very first day in office of Wickremesinghe is disgraceful and will have severe consequences on the country’s political, social, and economic stability. Currently, the country is in an emergency, which gives the military and police the authority to detain and arrest individuals without warrants.
According to the people in the raid, army officers in black outfits cleared protest camps violently close to the Presidential Secretariat building. According to Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission, the overall charge is a total violation of the fundamental rights of the individuals by the executive. Similarly, the diplomatic community condemns the scene of using force and violent treatment of the demonstrators.