The island nation has been rocked by a bout of violence that has left at least eight people dead and 200 injured amid its worst economic crisis in history. Protesters took to the streets in March demanding new leadership over acute shortages of food, fuel and other essentials.
Clashes ensued between government supporters and demonstrators on Monday demanding President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation. The nation was rocked by the clashes, and by police attempts to contain the protests.
The protests eventually led to Mahinda Rajapaksa resigning as prime minister.
Sri Lanka crisis live updates
Authorities have imposed an indefinite curfew across the nation and deployed military force, amid arson attacks on houses of several politicians.
Here are the latest developments from the crisis-hit island nation
Sri Lankan President urges people to stop ‘violence’
Embattled Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Tuesday urged people to stop “violence and acts of revenge” against fellow citizens and vowed to address the political and economic crisis facing the nation, even as the death toll rose to eight in the unprecedented violence that erupted after supporters of former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa attacked anti-government protesters here.
“I appeal and urge people to remain calm & stop violence & acts of revenge against citizens, irrespective of political affiliations. All efforts will be made to restore political stability through consensus, within constitutional mandate & to resolve economic crisis,” President Gotabaya tweeted in his first comments since the outbreak of the violence that saw arson attacks on the homes of several former ministers and politicians.
In photos: Sri Lanka gives emergency powers to military, police after clashes kill eight
Sri Lanka’s Attorney General on Tuesday asked the police chief to conduct an urgent and full-fledged investigation into the violent clashes between anti- and pro-government protesters in the country.
Protesters set up checkpoints
Anti-government protesters in Sri Lanka on Tuesday set up a checkpoint on the road leading to the Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo to prevent the Rajapaksa family loyalists from fleeing the country, as violence and widespread protest continued against the regime over the country’s worst economic crisis in decades.
Mahinda Rajapaksa, 76, resigned as prime minister on Monday amid unprecedented economic turmoil, hours after his supporters attacked anti-government protesters, prompting authorities to impose a nationwide curfew and deploy Army troops in the capital. The attack triggered widespread violence against pro-Rajapaksa politicians.
“Large group of people have set up a checkpoint on the road leading to the Katunayake Airport. They are trying to prevent ruling faction loyalists from fleeing the country,” News 1st channel reported.
Sri Lanka gives emergency powers to military
Sri Lanka on Tuesday gave emergency powers to its military and police to detain people without warrants, after a day of clashes that killed seven people and injured more than 200, in violence that prompted Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to resign.
The government outlined broad powers for the military and police to detain and question people without arrest warrants.
The military can detain people for up to 24 hours before handing them to police, while private property can be searched by force, including private vehicles, the government said in a gazette notification on Tuesday.
Protests at Lankan naval base housing Mahinda
A protest began in front of Sri Lanka’s Trincomalee Naval Base on Tuesday after reports emerged that former prime minister Mahinda and some of his family members were there after leaving Temple Trees, the official residence in Colombo.
Mahinda left his official Temple Trees residence early on Tuesday even as a mob tried to enter the premises.
Speaker asks President to summon Parliament
Sri Lankan Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana on Tuesday asked embattled President Gotabaya to summon the House as soon as possible to discuss the current situation amid unprecedented violence and widespread protest against the government.
Mahinda Rajapaksa faces calls for arrest
Former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is facing calls for his arrest from the Opposition for allegedly inciting violence against anti-government protesters.
Rajapaksa resigned as the Prime Minister on Monday amid unprecedented economic turmoil, hours after his supporters attacked anti-government protesters, prompting authorities to impose a nationwide curfew and deploy Army troops in the capital. His resignation has automatically annulled the Cabinet and the country is currently being run by his younger brother and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Attorney General tells police chief to launch probe
Sri Lanka’s Attorney General on Tuesday asked the police chief to conduct an urgent and full-fledged investigation into the clashes in the country.
Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam has advised the Inspector General of Police to conduct a full-fledged investigation into the incidents of unlawful interference into the people’s constitutional rights, the circumstances that led to them; and, the consequent commission of penal offences in the process, as per reports.
In a letter to the IGP, the Attorney General said that as the incident in metropolitan Colombo triggered sporadic acts of violence of serious nature involving people and their property all over the country, he advised the police chief to further investigate the aftermath of the incidents, the report said.
He urged the IGP to complete the investigation on an urgent priority basis.
Curfew follows unrest, protests on
Sri Lanka deployed thousands of troops and police on Tuesday to enforce a curfew. However, several hundred protesters continued to protests and chant slogans against the government on Tuesday.
Mahinda Rajapaksa had to be rescued in a pre-dawn military operation on Tuesday after thousands of anti-government protesters stormed his official residence in Colombo overnight, with police firing tear gas and warning shots to keep back the crowd.
Violence raged across Sri Lanka late into the night on Monday after Rajapaksa stepped down.
Those killed in the worst unrest since the crisis began included ruling-party legislator Amarakeerthi Athukorala who shot two people. Another ruling party politician gunned down two others.
The police said Athukorala later took his own life. The MP’s bodyguard was also killed.
Mobs attack Rajapaksa museum, leaders’ houses
At least 41 homes of top ruling party politicians were torched overnight despite curfews. Mobs attacked the controversial Rajapaksa museum in the ruling family’s ancestral village of Meda Mulana in the deep south of the island and razed it to the ground, police said.
Two wax statues of the Rajapaksa parents were flattened and mobs trashed the building. A court case is pending over the alleged use of state funds to build the museum, which cost more than half a million dollars.
The police said Rajapaksa house in his Hambantota constituency was also attacked on Monday evening.
A political office of the Rajapaksas in the northwestern town of Kurunegala was also destroyed in an arson attack, police said.
Mobs set fire to a truck used by the security forces to block the main entrance to the prime minister’s official Temple Trees residence, a key symbol of state power in the South Asian island.
Police lobbed tear gas and fired shots into the air to beat back the crowds, as thousands of protesters breached the main gate.
Angry mobs stormed the house of Sanath Nishantha, a lawmaker for the ruling party, in the district of Puttalam and set fire to it after damaging property and vehicles. Nishantha was seen with a group raiding the anti-government “Gota Go Home” campaign in the capital.
The office and home of Johnston Fernando, a strong Rajapaksa loyalist, was set ablaze in the city of Kurunegala, police said, adding that more than a dozen vehicles had gone up in flames.
Mayor in the Colombo suburb of Moratuwa, Saman Lal Fernando’s house was set ablaze hours after he took eight busloads of municipal workers to show solidarity with the Rajapaksas.
A tourist hotel owned by a close associate of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s children was also set ablaze, along with a Lamborghini car parked inside. There were no casualties among foreign guests, police said.
Doctors rush to help
Doctors at the main Colombo National Hospital intervened to rescue government supporters who were wounded in clashes with anti-Rajapaksa demonstrators.
“They may be murderers, but for us they are patients who must be treated first,” a doctor shouted at a crowd blocking the entrance to the emergency unit.
Soldiers had to break the locks to force open the gates and enter the hospital to bring in wounded government supporters.
People, trucks pushed into lake
Enraged anti-government protesters pushed dozens of people into the shallow Beira Lake near the Temple Trees residence. Police tried to rescue people, but were badly outnumbered by anti-government activists.
Three pick-up trucks were also pushed into the lake, along with two buses used to transport Rajapaksa loyalists.
Dozens of buses used by Rajapaksa supporters to travel to Colombo earlier in the day were torched or damaged.
In the suburb of Maharagama, a crowd forced a leader of a pro-government group out of their bus and threw him into a garbage cart, before ramming the vehicle with a bulldozer.
In the heart of the capital, three buses used to transport Rajapaksa loyalists were damaged. Police said mobs had also taken over exits from main expressways to target government supporters leaving the capital.
World Bank expresses concern
The World Bank has expressed deep concerns over the deteriorating situation in the Island nation.
World Bank Country Director for the Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, Faris H. Hadad-Zervos, on Monday tweeted, “We are deeply concerned with the perpetration of violence in Sri Lanka.”
“Those responsible are only standing in the way of the country’s immediate economic recovery and making the task even more difficult for development partners,” he added.
(With inputs from agencies)