Anti-government protests near the Sri Lankan President’s office may continue for another week after the Attorney General assured the Supreme Court here on Friday that no action would be taken to remove protesters from the Galle Face protest site until August 10. The development came a day after the protesters vowed to defy the police order to vacate the premises by Friday evening.
Protesters said the police had not obtained a court order to evict them from the Galle Face area, which was the center of anti-government protests here against the previous Rajapaksa government. Three writ petitions were filed in the Appellate Court on Thursday on behalf of the protesters after the police ordered the protesters to leave the protest site.
The Attorney General told the court on Friday that the structures will not be removed unless due legal process is followed. Sri Lankan police on Wednesday set an August 5 deadline for protesters to remove all illegal tents and encampments at Galle Face, near the presidential office.
The police claim that the constructions are illegal and need to be removed as per law as the site is the property of the Urban Development Authority. Protesters removed some structures on Wednesday and Friday following police orders. Since April 9, the protesters have occupied the premises including the gate of the President’s Secretariat.
He also claimed that the previous government led by former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had designated the area as a protest site and there was no need to leave the protest site. In March, protesters began demonstrating against the Rajapaksa family and demanding the resignation of the entire Rajapaksa family, leading to the resignation of then-Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on 9 May, and his brother President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fleeing the country on 13 July and resigning from Singapore the next day.
Following Rajapaksa’s resignation and the appointment of his successor Ranil Wickremesinghe, protesters were forcibly evicted from the Presidential Secretariat and Gate on 22 July, drawing international condemnation. According to a statement from the Human Rights Watch group, Sri Lankan security forces forcibly dispersed, assaulted and injured more than 50 people at a peaceful protest site near the Presidential Secretariat on Friday, July 22.
Sri Lanka is witnessing its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948. They have also defaulted on international loans. With the United Nations warning that 5.7 million people are “in urgent need of humanitarian assistance,” Sri Lanka is facing dire shortages of essential goods, including food, fuel and medicine.
Sri Lanka’s new government is tasked with bringing the country out of economic recession and restoring order. The worst financial crisis since Sri Lanka declared bankruptcy in mid-April after refusing to honor its international debt has seen widespread unrest for months.
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