07/23/2022, 11.16
SRI LANKA
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Colombo, Card. Ranjith: in less than 24 hours the new president has trampled on the Constitution

by Melani Manel Perera

The capital's archbishop says Wickremesinghe violated the fundamental rights of anti-government protesters, who were badly beaten by Security Forces. Civil society calls for an independent and transparent investigation, as well as the resignation of the head of state. Lawyers and journalists arrested.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - New President Ranil Wickremesinghe took office promising to protect the Constitution, but less than 24 hours after his election by Parliament he violated the fundamental rights of the people. This is the harsh indictment launched yesterday by Card. Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of the capital, just hours after police and military raided peaceful demonstrators protesting the appointment of the new head of state.

Wickremesinghe replaced Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled to Singapore after months of demonstrations by the people over the country's economic and financial crisis.

"If there is any negative fallout from the [Security Forces] attack, the responsibility will fall on the president. I urge him not to use military power to mistreat those who are suffering great hardships," Card. Ranjith said in a press note.

The cardinal accuses the security forces and the military of attacking unarmed civilians while they were sleeping, "A transparent and independent investigation into the incident must be launched. In this regard I will ask the UN Human Rights Council to intervene." 

Card. Ranjith's words are not the only ones of condemnation. Religious leaders, trade unionists, artists and ordinary citizens gathered yesterday morning at Fort Railway station calling for protection for the protesters and Wickremesinghe's resignation.

Venerable Buddhist Matara Ananda Sagara Thero told AsiaNews he saw with his own eyes the violence perpetrated by officers and military against the activists, speaking of an action worthy of Hitler's Nazi army. "They verbally attacked me and chased me away. The military acted as if they had taken drugs," explains Venerable Thero.

Saliya Peiris, president of the National Lawyers Association, also reported violence against her own clients who were trying to protect the rights of protesters. One lawyer is reported to have ended up under arrest, along with several journalists. The Association called for their immediate release.

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