Sri Lanka police to let GotaGoGama protesters continue until Aug.10

Colombo, Aug 5 (EFE).- Sri Lanka announced Friday that police will allow protesters to remain at Galle Face, the hub of resistance against former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government, at least until Aug.10.

The Attorney General’s announcement comes two days after police ordered protesters to leave the location near the ocean-side urban park by 5 p.m. on Friday.

Protests at Galle Face began on Apr.9 before demonstrators founded a hamlet – GotaGoGama or Gota-Go Village, asking Gotabaya to go.

The promenade soon became ground zero for the protests and the nerve center for anti-government demonstrations in the wake of the worst economic crisis in decades.

Lawyer-activist Nuwan Bopage said the decision not to empty the site immediately came after protesters filed five writ applications at the country’s Court of Appeal challenging the police order.

“Attorney General gave an undertaking not to remove these shelters without following due process of law without having a court order. It means that they cannot remove these shelters arbitrarily,” Bopage told EFE.

The police Thursday asked the protesters to remove structures and plants from the site and “not cause hindrance to the public.”

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.

Protesters welcomed the announcement by the government on not removing them immediately.

“I was here from April 17. I came to the community kitchen and started helping the cooks. We made sure no one was hungry. They are like a family to me. I am sad that this is coming to an end,” Sarath Raja, known in the GotaGoGama as Oshin, told EFE.

Most of the occupants had already vacated the premises by Friday morning.

Many groups who were at the promenade, however, have already vacated the premises.

“We left about two weeks ago. We won our struggle, which was to make the former president (Gotabaya Rajapaksa) resign. If people want this president (Ranil Wickremesinghe) to resign too, then we must start afresh,” an activist told EFE anonymously.

The remaining protesters have decided to stay put despite police pressure.

“We will not leave. They are trying to disperse but we will not bow down to those pressures,” Isuru Warnakulasooriya, 28, said.

Wickremesinghe was elected the new president in a parliamentary vote on July 20.

In his policy speech Wednesday, the president said extreme political groups with violent motives had hijacked the peaceful groups.

He said he would set up a bureau to protect the rights of the peaceful protesters. EFE

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