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Sri Lanka: US expresses concern over crackdown on anti-government protestors

Sri Lanka: US expresses concern over crackdown on anti-government protestors

The decision to evict the anti-government protesters came a day after Wickremesinghe was sworn in as president after ex-president Rajapaksa fled the country last week. Unbowed, the protesters vowed to continue their efforts to change their leadership.

US expresses concern over crackdown on anti-government protestors, envoy meets Wickremesinghe (Photo: Reuters) US expresses concern over crackdown on anti-government protestors, envoy meets Wickremesinghe (Photo: Reuters)

 The US on Friday denounced Sri Lankan security forces' overnight crackdown on anti-government protestors as its envoy met newly-elected President Ranil Wickremesinghe and expressed grave concern over the unnecessary and deeply troubling" escalation of violence.

Sri Lankan security forces raided the main anti-government protest camp at the President's Secretariat, arresting nine people and injuring several others, as the protesters continued to occupy the sensitive area despite the resignation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as president.

The decision to evict the anti-government protesters came a day after Wickremesinghe was sworn in as president after ex-president Rajapaksa fled the country last week. Unbowed, the protesters vowed to continue their efforts to change their leadership.

US Ambassador Julie Chung, who met Wickremesinghe to express grave concern over the unnecessary and deeply troubling escalation of violence against protesters overnight , said that the President and the Cabinet have an "opportunity and an obligation" to respond to the calls of Sri Lankans for a better future, a statement said.

This is not the time to crack down on citizens but instead to look ahead at the immediate and tangible steps the government can take to regain the trust of the people, restore stability and rebuild the economy," she said.

In a mid night operation, the security forces removed the protesters from the presidential secretariat and cleared the gate they had occupied since April 9.

Sri Lanka's bar association said two lawyers were also assaulted during the raid. It said nine protesters, including a lawyer, arrested by the police during the crackdown at the presidential secretariat have been granted bail by the Colombo Fort magistrate this evening.

A large number of lawyers were present at the court.

The protesters had vacated the President and Prime Minister's residences and the Prime Minister's office earlier after capturing them on July 9, but they were still occupying some rooms of the President's secretariat at the Galle Face.

The protesters returned to Colombo on Wednesday after Parliament voted in six-time Prime Minister Wickremesinghe as the country's new president.

They refused to accept Wickremesinghe, 73, as the new president, holding him partly responsible for the country's unprecedented economic and political crisis.

The protesters, who had been camping at the Secretariat's gate since April 9 when they started their anti-government protest which resulted in Rajapaksa's resignation as president last week, posted on social media on Thursday that they were planning to end their protest by 2 pm on Friday.

There was a debate that we should respect the Constitution and stop this protest," said a spokesman of the group.

However, the main protest group which blocked entry to the President's Office since April 9, said they would continue their struggle till Wickremesinghe resigned.

 

Published on: Jul 22, 2022, 8:26 PM IST
Posted by: Tarab Zaidi, Jul 22, 2022, 8:10 PM IST
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