In Sri Lanka, the new president’s show of force against protesters

Messages from the concerned protesters began pouring in shortly after midnight on Friday, July 22. Through social networks and WhatsApp groups, they were disturbed by the arrival of buses and trucks of hundreds of heavily armed soldiers and police near the presidential secretariat. In the middle of the night, police, many lurking in the shadows, surrounded the famous waterfront promenade, preventing any access.

The new president, Ranil Wickremesinga, who was recently elected by Parliament on Wednesday 20 July, had promised protesters who had pushed his predecessor, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to resign last week. “If you try to overthrow the government, occupy the office of the president and the office of the prime minister, this is not a democracy, this is prohibited.”, to caution. The state of emergency giving the armed forces and police sweeping powers at the beginning of this week, which promised to be turbulent.

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Less than twenty-four hours after being sworn in, on Thursday 21 July, Ranil Wickremesinga will have carried out his threats. At about 1 am on Friday, events reached their climax. Security forces, in riot gear, expelled protesters who were near and inside the presidential secretariat, occupied since July 9. We were sleeping in the secretariat, turned into a library, and the police started beating usAnd the Still reeling from the attack, explains Pratibha Fernando, a protester in her forties. We celebrated our last night here, and were all getting ready to leave in the afternoon. »

signs of violence

The demonstrators had announced, a few hours ago, that they would leave the scene safely on Friday. The Aragalaya movement, the movement of citizens that had caused Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee and then resign, had voluntarily vacated many of the authority’s figures. These protesters, who consider the new chief, Ranil Wickremesinga, an ally of the Rajapaksa clan, say they want to continue their fight. But they were ready to hand over the presidential secretariat, which they invaded on July 9.

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Ranil Wickremesinga did not give them time, preferring to send the army and police to expel them. “They got on our knees and begged them not to beat us, but they did it anyway.”Sheryanta Wickra-Mathelik, a 42-year-old photographer, who was also in the presidential secretariat, says. Many protesters, who were beaten with batons by security forces, bore the effects of this violence. “We knew what we were exposing ourselves to when we started this movement, but the arsenal that has been deployed is that of terrorists in general.”The protester, Judge Divinda Kodagoda, was hit in the face and hand.

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