COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s main opposition party on Saturday called for a parliamentary session to address attacks on peaceful protesters by security forces a day earlier as the new government led by President Ranil Wickremesinghe faces to widespread condemnation for the use of violence.
Protesters have consistently rejected Wickremesinghe, a former prime minister who was sworn in on Thursday after winning a vote in parliament. Demonstrations continued despite the announcement of a state of emergency and the deployment of troops to maintain order.
Hundreds of armed officers violently dispersed peaceful protesters in the main anti-government camp outside the president’s office in Colombo on Friday, just hours before new Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and an 18-member cabinet were to be sworn in.
More than 50 people were injured in the raids, including journalists and lawyers, according to reports, and at least nine people were arrested and then released on bail.
The main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya asked Gunawardena to convene parliament on Monday to discuss the attacks, which he described as “a blow to democracy”.
SJB lawmaker and chief opposition whip Lakshman Kiriella said in a statement on Saturday: “The unwarranted attack has been vehemently condemned by the international community and it may further damage the image of the country.
“The economic crisis that Sri Lanka is currently facing will worsen due to yesterday’s incident.”
Sri Lankans have taken to the streets for months to demand that their top leaders resign and take responsibility for the country’s economic collapse, as the island nation of 22million grapples with shortages of essentials , including fuel, medicine and food.
The protests led to the resignation of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled to the Maldives and then to Singapore last week to escape a popular uprising over his family’s role in the crisis. Wickremesinghe, as a perceived substitute for Rajapaksa, also drew the ire of protesters.
Various rights groups and foreign diplomats have expressed concern over the use of force against protesters, who have staged their campaigns since March and announced they would voluntarily leave the site on Friday.
US Ambassador Julie Chung said she expressed concern over the “unnecessary and deeply disturbing escalation of violence against protesters” during a meeting with the new president on Friday evening.
“Now is not the time to crack down on citizens, but rather to consider the immediate and tangible steps the government can take to regain the trust of the people, restore stability and rebuild the economy,” Chung said in a statement. a tweet.
Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said Friday’s attacks “send a dangerous message to the people of Sri Lanka that the new government intends to act through brute force rather than Right wing state”.
The Sri Lanka Bar Association also condemned the violence and called for an immediate end to the use of force by the troops.
“The use of armed forces to suppress civil protests from the first day in office of the new president is despicable and will have serious consequences for the social, economic and political stability of our country,” said BASL President Saliya Pieris, in a statement.
Kyle Ward, Deputy Secretary General of Amnesty International, said the right to protest must be respected.
“It is shameful that the new government resorted to such violent tactics within hours of taking office.”