Protesters in Sri Lanka vow not to give up despite police ultimatum
Colombo, Aug 4 (EFE).- Sri Lankan protesters vowed Thursday to continue protests in defiance of a police order to remove tents from Galle Face, the hub of resistance against former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government.
The police urged protesters to leave the site by 5 p.m. on Friday near the ocean-side urban park, where demonstrators had established a hamlet – GotaGoGama or Gota-Go Village, asking Gotabaya to go.
Many demonstrators told EFE that they would not leave just because police ordered them to.
They claimed that the police did not have a court order to remove them.
Udari Ayesha, 27, stated that even if the court ordered them to leave the place they had been occupying since April 9, “our movement is not over yet.”
“This will be a pause for our struggle,” Ayesha said.
Activist Samali Mandira, 36, alleged that the new government of President Ranil Wickremesinghe was trying to silence them.
“The police is now raiding our houses. Ranil is like a fox,” Mandira said.
The activist criticized the president for attempting to violently remove the protestors, saying he should fight “with the pen and papers rather than barricades because he reads a lot.”
Police Thursday asked the protesters to remove structures and plants and “not cause hindrance to the public.”
The police warned of legal action against those violating the law.
Authorities have launched a crackdown on protesters, arresting many for causing damages to public property and disobeying court orders.
The island nation of 22 million people is grappling with the worst economic crisis in over seven decades.
Months-long mass protests forced the then-president Rajapaksa to flee the country and resign on July 13.
Wickremesinghe was elected the new president in a parliamentary vote on July 20.
The Human Rights Watch on Wednesday said the Sri Lankan government was using emergency regulations “to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.”
Since Wickremesinghe was sworn in, the police and military have sought to curtail protests through the “intimidation, surveillance, and arbitrary arrests of demonstrators, civil society activists, lawyers, and journalists,” said the rights group.
In his policy speech on Wednesday, the president stated that “unfavorable international economic factors” triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Covid-19 outbreak aggravated the Sri Lankan problem.
He said the island suffered a massive loss due to hostility to foreign investment.
“Due to all these reasons…the people have been suffering severe hardship,” he said.