Media footage showed soldiers in riot gear and armed with assault rifles tearing down the camp, set up in April by protesters enraged with the country’s economic collapse that has caused severe shortages of fuel, food and medicines.
“Nine people, including two injured, have been arrested.”
Why are people protesting?
Protest organisers said hundreds of security personnel surrounded the “Gota Go Gama” protest camp, mockingly named after Mr Rajapaksa, after midnight and then took apart a section of it.
Police say nine people were arrested during the crackdown on the protest camp in Colombo. Source: AAP / AP
As daylight broke, dozens of troops marched through the area and rows of protest tents that stood on both sides of the main road that passes in front of the office of the president were completely cleared out.
At least 50 protesters were injured, the organisers said, including some journalists who were beaten by security forces. Hospital sources said two were hospitalised.
“They beat us really cruelly,” said Buddhika Abeyrathne, 34, a protester who witnessed the raid but did not appear injured himself. “Mr Wickremesinghe doesn’t know what democracy is.”
State of emergency declared
Sri Lanka is under a state of emergency since Monday. Previous emergency regulations have been used to give powers to the military to detain and arrest protesters and curtail the right to protest.
Army soldiers stand guard after removing the protesters and their tents from the site of a protest camp outside the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Friday, 22 July 2022. Source: AAP / AP
Mr Wickremesinghe, the former prime minister, was sworn into office on Thursday after winning a parliamentary vote this week, following the resignation of Mr Rajapaksa who fled to Singapore in the wake of massive public protests triggered by the country’s worst economic crisis in seven decades.
Who could be the next prime minister?
After surrounding the protest camp, security personnel moved in front of the presidential secretariat, started dismantling some tents and assaulted protesters, protest organiser Manjula Samarasekara said.
US and British diplomats expressed concern. “We urge restraint by authorities and immediate access to medical attention for those injured,” US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Julie Chung, said on Twitter.
“The use of the armed forces to suppress civilian protests on the very first day in office of the new president is despicable and will have serious consequences on our country’s social, economic and political stability,” the collective of lawyers said in a statement.
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