The new Sri Lankan government, which is largely dependent on foreign aid to overcome its dire economic situation, faced renewed pressure on Saturday from the international community, human rights organizations and the opposition after attacks on peaceful protesters. State organizations and the world have asked President Ranil Vikram Singh to immediately order the security forces not to use force against peaceful protesters.
Sri Lankan security forces forcibly dispersed anti-government protesters camped outside the presidential office in Colombo in the early hours of Friday morning on the orders of the new president of the besieged island nation Wickremesinghe. Protesters have been camping outside the presidential office for months to demand the resignation of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his chief aide Wickremesinghe, who fled the country on July 13.
Protesters blamed Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe for mismanaging the economy, which has put the country’s 22 million people at risk. The opposition urged the newly appointed Prime Minister Dinesh Gunordana to convene Parliament on Monday to discuss the security forces’ attack on peaceful protesters and the current situation in the country.
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The opposition leader described the use of force as unnecessary
Sri Lanka’s opposition leader, Sajith Premadasa, has already expressed concern about the attack on protesters. He tweeted on Friday, “No one can deny the use of excessive force and it was not necessary. This inhumane act cannot be justified, everyone must follow the law.”
On Saturday, he tweeted again that the government must ensure that the violence does not recur on Friday. He also noted that the EU’s warning to the Wickremesinghe government set off alarm bells across Sri Lanka, as the GSP is the most valuable for the country’s exports. Premadasa’s tweet comes after the EU Council on Friday made a strongly worded statement that the 27-member group expects the new Sri Lankan government to fully comply with GSP obligations.
Demanding the release of all detainees
Hana Singer Hamdi, the UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, also expressed concern about the use of force to disperse protesters in Galle Face. Singer Hami said on Twitter that journalists and human rights defenders have the right to monitor demonstrations and their actions should not be obstructed. Human Rights Watch said that President Wickremesinghe should immediately order security forces to stop all forms of unlawful use of force against protesters. It also demanded the release of all those arbitrarily detained and the prosecution of those responsible for misconduct.
The Human Rights Commission also condemned the raid
“Just a day after taking office, President Wickremesinghe witnessed the brutal attack by security forces on peaceful protesters in the heart of Colombo,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. The Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission also condemned the raids, saying the brutal attack on “peaceful protesters” is a complete violation of basic rights. US and British diplomats in Colombo also expressed concern.
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Appeal to the authorities for restraint
“We urge the authorities to exercise restraint and provide immediate medical care to the injured,” US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung tweeted. “We have made clear the importance of the right to peaceful protest,” said the British High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Sarah Holton. Sri Lanka needs about US$5 billion in the next six months to meet the basic needs of its 22 million people.