Conflicts & War

Tense protest against death, arrests of activists in Sri Lanka

Colombo, Nov 9 (EFE).- Demonstrators gathered in Colombo Wednesday to remember those who died during the protests against the economic crisis in Sri Lanka.

The atmosphere at the commemoration was tense due to the heavy police presence amid allegations of repression by the authorities.

A group of people gathered at Galle Face Park in the capital, which for months was the epicenter of a protest camp, to honor the 11 people killed during the demonstrations which began seven months ago.

But the event was interrupted several times by members of the security forces demanding that the protesters leave the area.

Human rights lawyer Swasthika Arulingam, told EFE that the disproportionate police presence was a symbol of the government’s growing authoritarianism.

“The police are overreacting for even a small remembrance. This is not a good sign fordemocracy. The state is making the police look like the enemy,” Arulingam said.

Activist Chanu Nimesha denounced to EFE the “stress” caused by the hundreds of police on duty.

“Today our rights are suppressed. We can’t even hold a remembrance in peace,” she said.

Protesters waved banners calling for an end to the crackdown and the release of the hundreds of activists who were detained in the wake of the protests on various charges including damaging public property and disobeying court orders.

Sri Lanka is going through the worst economic crisis since its independence from the British Empire in 1948, and high inflation coupled with a shortage of international foreign exchange reserves led the government in April to suspend the payment of its foreign debt and to negotiate for a bailout with the IMF that has not yet been secured.

The crisis triggered protests all over the island from the end of March, when thousands of people began to take to the streets to demand the resignation of then-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

On July 9, the unrest culminated in an attack on Rajapaksa’s official residence and the private residence of then-Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, forcing the president to step down and flee the country.

Wickremesinghe, now president, has been accused of numerous human rights violations in his crackdown on the demonstrations.

The executive director of the Sri Lanka Centre for Policy Alternatives, Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, told EFE that hundreds of activists who participated in the demonstrations have been detained in recent months. EFE


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