Sri Lankan troops forcefully clear protesters; new PM named

Jul 21, 2022, 8:22 PM | Updated: Jul 22, 2022, 7:27 am
Protesters and para medics carry an injured protester into an ambulance following a military evicti...

Protesters and para medics carry an injured protester into an ambulance following a military eviction of protesters from the presidential secretariat in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, July 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

(AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lankan forces violently cleared the main protest camp of demonstrators outraged by the country’s economic meltdown as the newly elected and deeply unpopular president put army troops in the streets of the capital Friday to maintain order.

Security forces were seen beating at least two journalists during the overnight raid, and the bar association said two lawyers were also assaulted — heavy-handed tactics denounced by the opposition, the U.N., and the U.S. The troops moved in even though protesters had announced they would vacate the site on Friday voluntarily.

Unbowed, the protesters vowed to continue their efforts to change their leadership. A crowd rallied for a few hours outside the main rail station, while some people also gathered as close as they could to the former demonstration site outside the presidential office.

Adding to signs that President Ranil Wickremesinghe would not address the concerns of protesters, he chose a prime minister on Friday with close ties to the political establishment that the demonstrators blame for the country’s collapse.

Sri Lankans have taken to the streets for months demanding their leaders resign over an economic crisis that has left the island nation’s 22 million people short of essentials like medicine, food and fuel. After they stormed the presidential palace and other government buildings earlier this month, then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, whose family has ruled Sri Lanka for most of the last two decades, fled and resigned.

Wickremesinghe, who had been prime minister, was elevated to president by lawmakers this week — apparently seen as a safe pair of hands to lead Sri Lanka out of the crisis, even though he, too, was a target of the demonstrations. On Friday, he appointed as prime minister a Rajapaksa ally, Dinesh Gunawardena, who is 73 and from a prominent political family.

After his election in a parliamentary vote this week, Wickremesinghe told lawmakers that the people “are not expecting the old politics from us.” But his recent moves signaled an inclination to maintain the status quo.

On Monday, when he was acting president, Wickremesinghe declared a state of emergency giving him the power to change or suspend laws and giving authorities broad power to search premises and detain people. Overnight, just hours after he was sworn in, he issued a notice under the state of emergency calling on the armed forces to maintain law and order nationwide — clearing the way for the move against the protest camp.

The protesters accuse Rajapaksa and his powerful family of siphoning money from government coffers and of hastening the country’s collapse by mismanaging the economy. The family has denied the corruption allegations, but the former president acknowledged that some of his policies contributed to Sri Lanka’s crisis.

Starting at around midnight, army troops and police arrived in trucks and buses to clear the main protest camp near the presidential palace in the capital, Colombo, where demonstrators have gathered for the past 104 days. They removed tents and blocked roads leading to the site.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka, the main lawyers’ body in the country, said the lawyers who were assaulted had gone to the protest site to offer their counsel.

In all, eight people, including some protesters, were injured, some badly, according to a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give the information to the media. Eleven people were arrested, he said. They included both protesters and lawyers, according to the Bar Association.

“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 Bar Association said in a statement.

The leader of the political opposition, Sajith Premadasa, also denounced the raid.

“A cowardly assault against PEACEFUL protestors, who agreed to vacate the sites today; A useless display of ego and brute force putting innocent lives at risk & endangers Sri Lanka’s international image, at a critical juncture,” he wrote on Twitter.

Hanaa Singer-Hamdy, the U.N. resident coordinator to Sri Lanka, expressed grave concern over the use of force and U.S. Ambassador Julie Chung also expressed concern.

“Actions that stifle protests and the right to peaceful assembly can worsen economic and political instability in Sri Lanka,” Singer-Hamdy said.

Heavy security was present outside the president’s office at midday.

The political turmoil has threatened to make a rescue from the International Monetary Fund more difficult. Still, earlier this week, Wickremesinghe said bailout talks with the fund were nearing a conclusion and talks on help from other countries had also progressed.

The head of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, told the Japanese financial magazine Nikkei Asia this week that the fund hopes for a deal “as quickly as possible.”

___

Find more of AP’s Sri Lanka coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/sri-lanka

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - In this handout photo taken from video and released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Servic...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: Fighting in Ukraine endangers big nuclear plant

Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, stoking international fears of a catastrophe on the continent. A look at the plant and the situation around it: EUROPE’S BIGGEST NUCLEAR PLANT The Zaporizhzhia plant is in southern Ukraine, near the town of Enerhodar on the banks of the Dnieper […]
2 hours ago
FILE - The logo of Toshiba Corp. is seen at a company's building in Kawasaki near Tokyo, on Feb. 19...
Associated Press

Japan’s Toshiba boosts profit on devices, auto sector demand

TOKYO (AP) — Toshiba reported a 44% improvement in profit in the last quarter as the Japanese technology giant worked to revamp its brand image and reassure investors about its management. Tokyo-based Toshiba Corp. said Wednesday that it recorded a 25.9 billion yen ($192 million) profit in the April-June period, up from 18 billion yen […]
2 hours ago
FILE - An employee of Honda Motor Co. cleans a Honda car displayed at its headquarters in Tokyo on ...
Associated Press

Japan’s Honda sees declining profits on semiconductor crunch

TOKYO (AP) — Honda’s fiscal first quarter profit fell 33% from last year as a global computer chip shortage, a pandemic-related lockdown in China and the rising costs of raw materials hurt the Japanese automaker. Tokyo-based Honda Motor Co. reported Wednesday that its profit totaled 149.2 billion yen ($1.1 billion) in the April-June quarter, down […]
2 hours ago
Conservative Party leadership candidate Liz Truss smiles during a visit to the Onside Future Youth ...
Associated Press

In race to win, UK Conservatives accused of ignoring crises

LONDON (AP) — As Britain swelters through a roasting summer, and braces for a cold financial reckoning in the fall, calls for the Conservative government to act are getting louder. But the Conservatives are busy choosing a new leader, through a prolonged party election whose priorities often seem remote from the country’s growing turmoil. Britons’ […]
2 hours ago
From left, CEO of Cathay Pacific Augustus Tang, Chairman Patrick Healy and Chief Operations and Ser...
Associated Press

Cathay Pacific losses narrow as COVID-19 restrictions ease

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific Airways said Wednesday that losses in the first half of the year narrowed as a relaxation in quarantine rules boosted passenger numbers. But it cautioned that quarantine restrictions on its crew were limiting the airline’s ability to increase flight capacity. The company reported losses of about […]
2 hours ago
From left, CEO of Cathay Pacific Augustus Tang, Chairman Patrick Healy and Chief Operations and Ser...
Sponsored Content by

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific Airways said Wednesday that losses in the first half of the year narrowed as a relaxation in quarantine rules boosted passenger numbers. But it cautioned that quarantine restrictions on its crew were limiting the airline’s ability to increase flight capacity. The company reported losses of about […]

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

PHOENIX — When you think about home investments, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Was it the air conditioning unit? Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a […]
...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Sri Lankan troops forcefully clear protesters; new PM named