Sri Lankan security personnel dismantle protest camps outside Presidential Secretariat in Colombo amid late-night clampdown | World News

Colombo: Armed security personnel dismantled tents of protestors amid a late-night clampdown outside the premises of the Sri Lankan Presidential Secretariat in Colombo. The armed soldiers were deployed in a bid to control the protestors who have been protesting against the new Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe.  A large number of protestors, who confronted armed security personnel, alleged that security personnel raided the anti-government protest camp in the capital on early Friday, according to reports.

“Ranil Wickremesinghe wants to destroy us, they are again doing this, but we will never give up. We want to make our country free of such nasty politics,” ANI quoted a protestor amid an armed forces crackdown, wherein, tents of protestors are being dismantled by the armed security personnel outside the premises of the Sri Lankan Presidential Secretariat.

As Sri Lanka scrambles to get back on track after the election of a new President, the people in the country — who are facing severe economic hardship — are still uncertain about the future. Amid this uncertainty, Sri Lankans from across the country are reportedly lining up at the passport office in Colombo to get a new passport or get their old one renewed, desperate for a way out of the crisis-marred country.

“There is no food, no fuel and no money in the country. What will we do and how we will survive? I`m here to get my passport and go to Qatar for a job. People are here for this only,” a person who is waiting in the queue told ANI.

Wickremesinghe,  who was elected as president in an election held in Parliament on Wednesday, was sworn in as President of Sri Lanka on Thursday in Parliament before Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya. Wickremesinghe received 134 votes following the resignation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa from the presidency last week amid severe economic turmoil in the country.

After Parliament voted in six-time Prime Minister Wickremesinghe as the country’s new president, anti-government protesters returned to Colombo on Wednesday as they refused to accept Wickremesinghe, 73, as the new president, holding him partly responsible for the country’s unprecedented economic and political crisis.

Wickremesinghe, who was sworn in as the eighth President of Sri Lanka on Thursday, said last night that the occupation of government buildings was illegal, warning that legal action would be taken against their occupiers. The new president said he would extend support to the peaceful protesters but would be tough on those who try to promote violence under the guise of peaceful protests.

Wickremesinghe has made arrangements to swear in his cabinet on Friday at the Prime Minister’s office. Such ceremonies usually take place in the Secretariat which was under the control of protesters since July 9 when Rajapaksa fled to Male before sending his resignation from Singapore last week.

Sri Lanka`s economy is bracing for a sharp contraction due to the unavailability of basic inputs for production, an 80 per cent depreciation of the currency since March 2022, coupled with a lack of foreign reserves and the country`s failure to meet its international debt obligations. Hundreds of Sri Lankans continue to queue up at petrol pumps across the debt-ridden country every day amid fuel shortage, and a large number of people are ditching their cars and motorcycles for bicycles for their daily commute. 

Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million people, is under the grip of an unprecedented economic turmoil, the worst in seven decades, leaving millions struggling to buy food, medicine, fuel and other essentials. Schools have been suspended and fuel has been limited to essential services. Patients are unable to travel to hospitals due to the fuel shortage and food prices are soaring. Trains have reduced in frequency, forcing travellers to squeeze into compartments and even sit precariously on top of them as they commute to work.

The country, with an acute foreign currency crisis that resulted in foreign debt default, announced in April that it was suspending nearly USD 7 billion foreign debt repayment due for this year out of about USD 25 billion due through 2026. Sri Lanka’s total foreign debt stands at USD 51 billion.

Notably, Rajapaksa fled the country to the Maldives before flying out to Singapore after his palace was stormed by angry protesters amid the unprecedented economic crisis. Hi official residence in Colombo was stormed by tens of thousands of angry protesters last week. Rajapaksa had offered his resignation after fleeing the country.

(With ANI/PTI Inputs)