Conflicts & War

Sri Lankan prime minister resigns amid violent protests, curfew

Colombo, May 9 (EFE).- Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned on Monday after multiple clashes between the government’s supporters and protesters who have been demanding its ouster for weeks due to the severe economic crisis affecting the nation.

“Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has sent his resignation to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa a short while ago,” the PM’s office said in a press release.

The resignation had been confirmed to EFE earlier by an office source on the condition of anonymity, although President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Mahinda’s elder brother, was yet to officially accept it.

The development comes after an indefinite curfew was imposed in the country following incidents of violence in the capital city of Colombo in Western Province and Kandy district in Central Province on Monday, the police said in a statement.

Several people were hospitalized in Colombo on Monday after hundreds of supporters of Gotabaya and Mahinda Rajapaksa attacked unarmed protesters who were demanding that the two brothers step down.

Rajapaksa supporters came in buses and participated in a meeting addressed by the prime minister, before moving on to the protest sites near the Prime Minister’s official residence and the Presidential secretariat, where demonstrators have been camped for weeks.

The Rajapaksa supporters, armed with poles and iron bars, attacked several protesters who had been demanding the resignation of the prime minister, and destroyed all the tents, according to eyewitnesses.

“They attacked with a pole while shouting abuses,” a protester with a bleeding nose told reporters. “Police just witnessed them attacking us.”

Later, Rajapaksa supporters walked some two kilometers (1.2 miles) to the protest site near the presidential secretariat, and attacked the hundreds of demonstrators present there and destroyed their tents.

The police used water canons and tear gas to disperse the crowd and stop the clash between the two groups.

A little later, protesters attacked a police official as well as opposition leader Sajith Premadasa, who was near the presidential secretariat, an eyewitness told EFE.

An official at Colombo National Hospital told EFE at least 18 people have been admitted so far with injuries.

President Rajapaksa condemned the violence and urged the people to exercise restraint and remain calm.

“Strongly condemn the violent acts taking place by those inciting & participating, irrespective of political allegiances. Violence won’t solve the current problems. I request all citizens to remain calm & exercise restraint,” tweeted the president.

The military has been called upon to beef up security following the clash near presidential secretariat.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) said it received reports of people armed with poles and clubs marching from the prime minister’s official residence, Temple Trees, and attacking protesters.

The BASL, in a statement, called for “immediate action by the Inspector General of Police and the Police to prevent protesters from being attacked” and warned of “grave repercussions” due to the inaction of the government and the police to address the situation.

Sri Lanka is going through a severe economic crisis that has led to a shortage of essential goods such as food, fuel, medicine and cooking oil.

This crisis, triggered by the lack of sufficient foreign exchange reserves to import essential supplies, has even led to power cuts of up to 13 hours.

On Friday, Sri Lanka imposed a state of emergency to check the increasing protests, which, however, only intensified over the weekend due to the shortage of essentials and cooking gas. EFE

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