05/10/2022, 17.08
SRI LANKA
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Religious leaders slam attacks on protesters in Colombo

by Melani Manel Perera

Card Malcolm Ranjith reiterated the right to protest peacefully, urging President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to follow his brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, and resign. Several cars and homes owned by politicians were set on fire. A curfew is in place across the country until 7am tomorrow.

 

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Following Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s resignation, Sri Lanka’s main religious leaders met with his younger brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. They urged him to step down as well and condemned yesterday's attacks on protesters.

The president held an emergency meeting yesterday with Ven Omalpe Sobhitha Thero, a former member of Sinhala Urumaya party, the Auxiliary Bishops of Colombo J.D. Anthony and Maxwell Silva, Fr Cyril Gamini Fernando, as well as other Buddhist priests and monks.

“We clearly saw horrific thugs attacking peaceful protests near Temple Trees and Galle Face Green. It was shown by all the media around the world,” the religious leaders said.

They explained to the president that the country needs a non-partisan figure as prime minister to head a small cabinet, and that an advisory committee should be created in that regard.

At a press conference, Card Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, condemned the violence and reaffirmed the right to protest peacefully.

“We are amazed that the police, with full knowledge of the government, did not act properly to stop the clashes,” the cardinal said. “We express our opposition to the prime minister.”

Similarly, Fr Gamini Fernando, editor of a Sinhala language Catholic newspaper, said: “We are deeply saddened by what happened yesterday. This government must take full responsibility for attacking the protesters.”

In his view, “This tragic situation arose because the government did not think about the people, but about its own greed for power.” In fact, most people in the country blame the Rajapaksas for plunging the country in its current economic situation.

Over the past few years, the ruling clan have turned the government into a family affair with nine family members appointed to positions of authority.

As a result, Sri Lanka defaulted in mid-April and is currently negotiating with the International Monetary Fund ways to rescue its economy.

In yesterday's street clashes, a Catholic priest, Fr Thilakasiri, and two Anglican clergymen, Revs Andrew Devadasan and Niroshan were caught up in the violence that included a tear gas attack.

So far, at least eight people have been killed and another 219 have been hospitalised.

Meanwhile, the Rajapaksa family home in Medamulana, Hambantota, was torched by protesters. The homes of other Rajapaksa siblings were also set on fire as were those of former ministers Chamal and Basil, along with the cars and properties of several politicians.

Protesters are blocking the roads leading to the country’s ports and airports in order to capture members of the Rajapaksa family who might try to flee.

A curfew has been imposed throughout the island until 7 am tomorrow morning.

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