08/04/2022, 15.29
SRI LANKA
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Police issue order to clear protest sites in Colombo

by Melani Manel Perera

Protesters file petitions with the Court of Appeal against police orders. The main leaders of the grassroot unrest have been arrested. Many ordinary Sri Lankans cannot trust Wickremesinghe, since his government is unable to understand their suffering.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Police have begun cracking down, ordering protesters who still "illegally" occupy the Galle Face Green urban park to leave the area by 5 pm tomorrow. Similarly, they have arrested the leaders of the main trade unions along with some students and activists involved in the anti-government protests.

After filing four petitions with the Court of Appeal demanding the suspension of police orders, protesters again took to the streets today, 117 days since the start of the movement against former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government.

At the beginning, the authorities had authorised protesters to occupy Galle Face Green as a legal “protest site".

The protest movement was sparked the worst economic crisis the country has experienced since independence in 1948.

Last April the island nation defaulted on its foreign debt of US$ 50 billion. As a result, the country has been unable to import fuel and inflation has exceeded 50 per cent with most people unable to buy basic necessities, especially food and medicine.

Now police warn that legal action will be taken against those who do not comply with their order.

According to lawyer Nuwan Bopage, more than 100 people have been arrested so far at the "RanilGoGama" (Ranil go home) rally, seeking the resignation of the new president Ranil Wickremesinghe.

A senior union leader, Ceylon Teachers' Union General Secretary Joseph Stalin, and a young Buddhist monk, Kosgoda Mahanama Thero, who is close to university students, are among the more prominent figures arrested.

For Urban Development and Housing Minister Prasanna Ranatunga, protesters should be assigned a new site, because those near the President’s House are not suitable.

Last month, thousands of people stormed government buildings, forcing then President Rajapaksa to flee and resign (via email).

Wickremasinghe claims that the original protest movement is now controlled by subversive or anarchist elements seeking to destabilise the country.

Protesters will turn to the courts, said Nuzly Hameem, one of the most prominent faces of the Galle Face Green protests. “This area was assigned by the government and we have been here for more than four months," he said.

“The government thinks we don't have houses to return to or work to do. In reality, they do not understand the suffering of ordinary people, or how hungry we are and the pain we are going through," said a woman protester, speaking to AsiaNews.

“Yesterday the president said that he would not harass protesters, but then there were arrests. We can no longer trust this man,” she added.

Teachers and parents have also staged brief protests outside some schools, following regular school hours.

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