Galle Face, Sri Lanka: Troops demolish a protest camp near the president’s office

Social media posts showed officers clad in riot gear tearing down protest tents and arresting demonstrators outside the presidential offices in Halle Face, two days after the crisis-hit country sworn in a new leader.

Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was officially sworn in as the country’s president on Wednesday and issued an “Extraordinary Gazette” calling on the military to maintain public order.

SSP police spokesman Nihal Talduva confirmed that nine people have been arrested and will stand trial on Friday.

Protesters camped outside the president’s office for months, demanding the resignation of the former president. Gotabaya Rajapaksawho fled the country in the early hours of 13 July, and Wickremesinghe, a key ally of Rajapx.
Both men presided over an economic crisis that has left 22 million people in the country struggling to buy fuel, food and basic necessities.

On Friday, Wickremesinghe swore in Dinesh Gunawarden, another Rajapaksa ally, as prime minister. Wickremesinghe and Gunawardena were classmates at the elite Royal College of Colombo.

The CNN team in the capital confirmed that the situation on the streets was calm after the morning raid, but a large number of military and police remained in and around the main protest site.

All roads and lanes leading into the area were cordoned off and guarded by the security forces.

The military now guards the entrance to the presidential secretariat and appears to have full control of the building. The banners that hung on the roof of the secretariat were also removed.

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Some observers expressed concern about the level of force used in the raid.

The Sri Lanka Bar Association also said in a statement that it “strongly and unreservedly” condemns the “use of force and violence” by the authorities “in attacking protesters.”

The Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission also condemned the raid, calling it a “brutal and cowardly attack on peaceful demonstrators” and a “complete violation of people’s fundamental rights”.

Concern was also expressed by American and British diplomats.

“We call for restraint authorities and immediate access to medical care for the wounded,” U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chang tweeted.
British High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Sara Halton She was “Very Concerned” by Reports of Protest Crackdown. “We have made clear the importance of the right to peaceful protest,” she added.

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