08/11/2022, 18.42
SRI LANKA
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Protesters leave protest sites in Colombo

by Melani Manel Perera

After a series of arrests, activists left Colombo’s Galle Face Green urban park of their own accord. Some say they need to change strategy against Ranil Wickremesinghe. Meanwhile, the new president is accused of violence and torture in connection with anti-communist crackdown of 1988 and 1989.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Protesters have dropped four petitions filed at the Court of Appeal regarding the recent eviction order issued by the government.

The police had ordered protesters to vacate Colombo's Galle Face Green urban park by 5 August. The attorney general pledged that the unauthorised structures would not be removed until 10 August.

Yesterday, of their own accord, protesters left the site, which is located near the main government buildings.

Before leaving, they held one last rally to remember the people who, in the past few months made sacrifices for the struggle. Gatherings at the site were widely described as Aragalaya, the Sinhalese word for struggle.

A few tents remained, though, as did some diehards who refuse to leave. “After they got gas, people forgot about corruption and stolen money,” some of them said speaking to AsiaNews.

“We have been laying low for a bit because our lives are at risk for fighting for the nation,” they added. “Many told us to accept the victory over Gotabaya Rajapaksa."

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s former president is expected to fly to Thailand from Singapore. On 9 July, protesters stormed and occupied the President’s House, forcing him to flee.

Several protesters stressed the need to change strategy. For them, “The way used to oust the Rajapaksa family is not suitable for Ranil” Wickremesinghe, the new president, who has been accused of harsh repression against protesters.

Sri Lankan authorities claim that the recent arrests were only made against those who violated the law. Still, religious leaders from all denominations held a silent protest on Monday against the government's arrests and snatchings.

For Fr Rohan Silva, director of the Centre for Religion and Society, Sri Lanka is going backward, towards the violence of the past. "The [current] president has earned a bad reputation as the ‘murderer of Batalanda,'" he explained.

Wickremesinghe is accused in connection with events at the Batalanda detention centre, where tens of thousands of people from the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, a militant communist group, were tortured and killed in 1988 and 1989.

A government commission that investigated the crimes committed in the prison recommended that Wickremesinghe be stripped of his civic rights, which would have prevented him from running for political office.

No Sri Lankan government has ever taken legal action in this regard.

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