BY Dinitha Rathnayake
An islandwide curfew was imposed yesterday (9) following supporters of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP)-led Government attack on peaceful anti-Government protesters at “MynaGoGama” in Kollupitiya and “GotaGoGama” in Galle Face, which led to over 130 sustaining injuries and being hospitalised.
Prior to the declaration of islandwide curfew, Police curfew was imposed with immediate effect, until further notice, to the Colombo South, Colombo North, and Colombo Central Police areas.
In order to assist the Police and control the situation, the Army deployed its troops in the Galle Face esplanade with immediate effect to protect civilians and maintain peace in the area. Defence Secretary Gen. Kamal Gunaratne requested the general public to support the tri-forces and remain calm and to exercise restraint.
Leave of Police officers has since been cancelled with those on leave also ordered to report to duty. The Excise Department has meanwhile informed that all liquor shops are to remain closed until further notice.
The unrest broke out after SLPP supporters attacked protesters and destroyed both the “MainaGoGama” protest site in front of the Temple Trees and the “GotaGoGama” protest site at the Galle Face Green in Colombo.
The SLPP supporters engaged in the act following a meeting with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Temple Trees in Colombo in the morning, yesterday.
Over 130 people who were injured in the clashes have been admitted to the National Hospital in Colombo.
Police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse SLPP supporters who destroyed the “Occupy Galle Face” protest site at the Galle Face Green in Colombo. However, protestors claimed that the target of the Police and the Armed Forces was not the supporters of the Prime Minister, but the anti-Government protestors, and that they had arrived late to the premises, after everything built by the peaceful protestors in “GotaGoGama” in Galle Face had already been destroyed.
The “GotaGoGama” in Kandy was also attacked and fully destroyed by supporters of the Government.
The Occupy Galle Face movement, a peaceful public protest, was underway at the site for the 32nd consecutive day yesterday, calling on the President and the Government to step down over the crises in Sri Lanka.
SLPP supporters destroyed the anti-Government “MynaGoGama” protest site that was set up outside Temple Trees over the last few weeks, and headed to the Occupy Galle Face protest site at the Galle Face Green, and assaulted peaceful protesters at “GotaGoGama”, and destroyed protest related materials including tents.
The Police have fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse the SLPP supporters behaving in an unruly manner at the Occupy Galle Face protest site, and State Minister Sanath Nishantha was also allegedly among the supporters of Prime Minister Rajapaksa who destroyed the “GotaGoGama” site.
Meanwhile, Opposition and Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Leader Sajith Premadasa was attacked as he visited the “GotaGoGama” protest site set up at the Galle Face Green in Colombo. Premadasa, who was accompanied by SJB MP Eran Wickramaratne, was attacked by a group of people as they arrived at the location. The duo was forced to return to their vehicles and drive away due to the attack.
Meanwhile, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)-led National People’s Power (NPP) Leader MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake also arrived at the Galle Face Green in Colombo, where peaceful protestors were attacked by Government supporters. MP Dissanayake questioned as to how a peaceful protest site that has been in existence for nearly a month could be attacked in such a manner. Condemning the actions of the Government supporters, the MP said that they cannot attack peaceful protestors and destroy their belongings.
Protests took place after the incident, in front of the National Hospital in Colombo and the Hulftsdorp Courts Complex, while postal workers and health workers also called on a strike action, condemning the attack.
Supporters of Prime Minister Rajapaksa had urged him not to resign from the post of the Premier. Sources claimed that this was a planned drama staged by the supporters of the Government to destroy the mindset of peaceful protestors. It has been reported that hundreds of supporters of the Prime Minister have been brought in buses, while some others marched to Temple Trees to show support to the Premier against the call for his resignation. Local Government representatives and MPs supporting the Premier had been arriving at the Temple Trees and the Prime Minister had been meeting with them.
Government MP Jagath Kumara Sumithraarachchi told the media that the Prime Minister has announced that he will resign after making a special statement yesterday.
Government MP Johnston Fernando said that if Prime Minister Rajapaksa resigns, it would create a political crisis in the country. He stressed therefore that the Prime Minister must not step down.
The SLPP Local Government Members’ Forum led hundreds of Mahinda Rajapaksa supporters to the Temple Trees yesterday to urge Rajapaksa not to step down from the post of the Prime Minister.
Addressing the gathering, Prime Minister Rajapaksa said that he was ready to come to a fair decision with the supporters, adding that the county is important to him, “firstly, secondly, and thirdly”.
Meanwhile, a shaman had performed a traditional ritual outside the Temple Trees, the official residence of Mahinda Rajapaksa, on the night of 8 May.
“This is part of the call for Prime Minister Rajapaksa, and his brother President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign from their Government with immediate effect.”
Further, thousands flooded the streets of Galle Face on 8 May as the Occupy Galle Face protest continued at the GotaGoGama protest site for the 31st day, demanding the resignation of the Government.
Sri Lankans from various parts of the country joined the protest campaign under various themes, and demanded that the money stolen from the people be recovered immediately while calling for the law to be enforced against those responsible for looting public funds.
At the same time, the “MynaGoGama” protest demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister continued for the 14th day.
The public attacked buses that were transporting SLPP supporters who had attended a meeting with the Prime Minister yesterday including the vehicle of SLPP MP Amarakeerthi Athukorala. Government supporters were blocked by protestors after they jumped into the Beira Late.
Further, Walallawita Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman Udeni Athukorala’s residence was also attacked by protestors.