Protesters withdraw from government buildings in Sri Lanka
Colombo, Jul 14 (EFE).- Protesters in Sri Lanka began withdrawing Thursday from several of the government buildings they had occupied since the weekend, including the presidential palace, as a sign of their movement being a peaceful one.
“Despite this peaceful occupation today as people from the struggle we have decided that we will withdraw from these properties except the Presidential Secretariat and Galle Face,” Swathika Arulingam, one of the representatives of the massive protests that have taken place for months in Colombo, told the media.
The mostly peaceful protests reached a peak on Saturday with several thousand people raided the presidential palace, the Presidential Secretariat building, and the prime minister’s private residence.
The demonstrators went a step ahead Wednesday with the occupation of the prime minister’s office, and the headquarters of the Sri Lankan state television, despite the presence of security forces.
“People of this struggle have never been violent. They have always been peaceful, and the occupation has always been peaceful. These buildings are people’s properties. They are not anyone’s private property and people have the right to occupy them,” said Arulingam from Galle Face park, located near the Presidential Secretariat.
Protesters will remain in the park, the nerve center of the protests, until President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and newly appointed incumbent President Ranil Wickremesinghe resign, she said.
Protesters are calling for the resignation of Rajapaksa, and his entire government, which they blame for the economic debacle that has plunged the nation into its worst crisis in history.
Since Saturday, when protesters broke into the official residences of President Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe, forcing them to flee, the occupied buildings have become museums open to the eyes of hundreds of curious people who roam their halls and rooms every day.
Pictures and videos on ocial media show crowds inside the pool or gym in these premises, or posing inside the president’s office.
However, as a result, there have reportedly been damages caused to several parts of these occupied properties, as could be seen in some of the images.
In a statement, the Sri Lankan Army called on demonstrators to refrain from causing damage to public property, and warned that security forces would use their resources to protect the national heritage.
“Members of the Armed Forces and the Police in terms of provisions, vested in them by the Constitution of Sri Lanka have been empowered to enforce law and order of the country and maintain the same in order to protect her people, public property and the country at large,” it said.
The authorities have also imposed an emergency in the Sri Lankan capital to try to contain the unrest. EFE