Amid the emergence of “fascist” forces attempting to prevent a peaceful and democratic transition of power, the Armed Forces and Police have been instructed to restore normalcy, alongside the declaration of a State of Emergency and curfew to assist these efforts, Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe said, issuing a video statement a short while ago.
Recalling the chain of events that led to this decision, Wickremesinghe said that party leaders had met on Monday afternoon to discuss the transition of power following the President’s resignation and a collective decision had been taken to elect a new president next week, while providing adequate security for Members of Parliament in the meantime.
“I gave an undertaking that I will step down as the PM to create an all-party government. We had planned to meet on Friday to discuss the matter again. In the meantime, some ambitious individuals who wanted to run for the post of president began discussing with other members of Parliament to gather support for their election. This was the kind of democratic climate that was in the country until yesterday,” he said.
Acting President Wickremesinghe further stated that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had left the country after informing him and the Speaker that that his letter of resignation would be delivered to the Speaker today (13).
He said that they had then received reports from the Intelligence agencies indicating that even though the President would leave the country and step down from his position and a new president was to be elected, some elements within the Aragalaya community were planning to take over and occupy the Prime Minister’s Office and the official residences of the Commanders of the Air Force, Army, and Navy as the Air Force had provided means for the President to leave the country.
“What they were planning to do was to take political control of this country. They had also planned to surround and take the Parliament of Sri Lanka. However, the Speaker spoke to the Chief of Defence Staff last evening and on the Speaker’s request the Chief of Defence Staff agreed to deploy forces to protect the Parliament, so the plan to take the Parliament failed. However, the groups that marched on the Prime Minister’s Office created a riot and tried to enter the premises forcefully. There was no need for them to enter the Prime Minister’s Office. They wanted to prevent me working with the Speaker to appoint a new president because they wanted to place into power a candidate of their choosing,” he charged.
Acting President Wickremesinghe said that some groups within the Aragalaya had stated that the Constitution was irrelevant, and Parliament was unnecessary and that their requests should be carried out instead.
Emphasising that constitutional rights and the sovereignty enshrined in the Constitution were enacted through the Parliament, Wickremesinghe said: “We cannot simply tear up the Constitution. Some have claimed that the Constitution is no longer needed. That statement is unconstitutional and therefore illegal. These elements are trying to promote fascist political agendas in Sri Lanka. It is sad that some of the traditional party politicians have also joined this movement.”
Therefore, in the backdrop of the activities unfolding today (13) and given what transpired at the Prime Minister’s Office, Wickremesinghe said the security forces had advised him to enact a State of Emergency and impose curfew.
“I am now in the process of declaring a State of Emergency and evoking curfew regulations. We must act swiftly to prevent fascist political ideologies from taking root. We need to protect public and private property, the homes, and properties of private citizens. Occupying the President’s residence, the Secretariat, the Prime Minister’s residence and Prime Minister’s Office is unacceptable. We must ensure that the documentation and files that are at the Government office are not destroyed.
“Therefore, I will declare a State of Emergency and impose a curfew to ensure the safety and security of these establishments and to restore normalcy. I have instructed the Armed Forces and Police to carry out these orders,” he added.
Wickremesinghe further stated that he had established a committee headed by the Chief of Defence Staff, the IGP, and the Heads of the Armed Forces to carry out this task and had given them complete powers required to enforce these orders. “There is no political interference; this committee will carry out the orders given to them and report to me,” he added.
Wickremesinghe concluded his statement by calling on the people to maintain law and order: “I make this request of all citizens: this is a time to ensure law and order is maintained not just for your sake but for the sake of your children’s future. Please assist the Police and the armed forces to restore normalcy.