Colombo, Aug 3 (EFE).- The Sri Lankan police on Wednesday gave a two-day ultimatum to demonstrators, who have been protesting for months against the political setup of the country amid the ongoing severe economic crisis, to vacate a their main protest site in Colombo.
The police, in a statement, revealed that they have ordered the protesters’ camp at Galle Park in the Sri Lankan capital to be evacuated by 5pm on Friday.
The protesters were also notified about the evacuation order through an announcement using a megaphone in the demonstration site.
“Act within the law and not hinder the public,” the security forces said in their announcement, threatening legal consequences against those who fail to comply.
The police announcement comes hours after the newly appointed president, Ranil Wickremesinghe, said in a speech before the parliament that he will not tolerate violence in the country, and promised to respect the rights of protesters.
“(We) will protect non-violence and democracy. Peaceful struggle is a fundamental right. I accept those rights,” stressed the president, who, since his swearing-in, has declared a state of emergency that tightened measures on street demonstrations.
The island nation of 22 million people is grappling with the worst economic crisis in over seven decades, with an acute shortage of essentials such as medicines, fuel and food, among other things.
Months-long mass protests forced the then-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country and resign on July 13.
Wickremesinghe was elected the new president in a parliamentary vote on July 20, following which the island country resumed negotiations with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout package.
The president faces criticism over a violent operation by the security forces to evict those who were inside the presidential secretariat – then occupied by demonstrators -, despite the protesters having pledged to vacate the building. EFE