Sri Lanka protesters get court reprieve, anti-govt demonstrations can go on till Aug 10
Defiant anti-government demonstrations near the Sri Lankan presidential office can go on for another week following an assurance by the Attorney General in a top court here on Friday that no action to remove the protesters from the Galle Face protest site will be taken until August 10.
The development comes a day after protesters vowed to defy an order from the police to vacate the area by Friday evening.
The protesters said the police had not obtained a court order to remove them from the Galle Face area, which was the epicenter of anti-government protests here against the previous Rajapaksa regime.
Three writ applications were filed at the Court of Appeal on Thursday on behalf of the protesters after the police ordered the protesters to leave the protest site.
The Attorney General told the court on Friday that the structures will not be removed without following the proper legal procedure.
The Sri Lankan police on Wednesday set an August 5 deadline for the protesters to remove all illegal tents and camps at Galle Face near the presidential office.
The police claim the structures were illegal and need removing according to the law as the site is the property of the Urban Development Authority. Some of the structures were removed by the protesters on Wednesday and Friday following the police order to quit.
The protesters have been occupying the area, including the gate of the presidential secretariat, since April 9.
They also claimed that the area was designated as an agitation site by the previous government headed by former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and there is no need for them to quit the protest site.
Protesters in March began demonstrating against the Rajapaksa family and demanded the resignation of the entire Rajapaksa family, leading to the resignation of then-Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on May 9, and his brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled the country on July 13 and resigned the following day from Singapore.
After the resignation of Rajapaksa and the appointment of his successor Ranil Wickremesinghe, the protesters were forcibly evicted from the presidential secretariat and the gate on Jul 22, drawing widespread international condemnation.
According to the Human Rights Watch group's statement, Sri Lankan security forces on July 22, Friday, forcibly dispersed people at a peaceful protest site near President's Secretariat, assaulted them leaving more than 50 persons injured.
Sri Lanka has been witnessing one of the worst economic crises since Independence in 1948. They have defaulted on international loans as well.
The United Nations has warned that 5.7 million people "require immediate humanitarian assistance," with Sri Lankans experiencing extreme shortages of essentials including food, fuel and medicines.
The new Sri Lankan government faces the task of leading the country out of its economic collapse and restoring order. Sri Lanka has seen months of mass unrest over the worst economic crisis, with the government declaring bankruptcy in mid-April by refusing to honour its international debt.