Sri Lankan anti-government protesters searched buses carrying government supporters to the capital Colombo on May 9, 2022.
New protests broke out in Sri Lanka’s capital on Tuesday, defying a government curfew after five people were killed in the worst violence in weeks of demonstrations over a severe economic crisis.
The protesters showed no signs of flinching, even after dozens were injured when government supporters were transported by buses to Colombo on Monday and attacked protesters with sticks and clubs.
Thousands of angry protesters stormed Mahinda’s official residence at night, and the former prime minister had to be rescued in a military operation before dawn on Tuesday, during which tear gas and warning shots were fired.
Speaking to AFP, protester Chamal Polwattage said: “More people are coming to the demonstration site after the state of emergency and curfew.
“We won’t go until the president leaves,” he added.
The power of the Rajapaksa clan has been shaken by months of power cuts and shortages in Sri Lanka, the worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.
“We were hit, the media were hit, women and children were hit,” a witness told AFP, asking not to be named.
Authorities said the curfew will be lifted Wednesday morning, with government and private offices, as well as shops and schools to be closed on Tuesday.
“Arrest those responsible for inciting violence, regardless of their political status,” Police Chief Chandana Wickramaratne said in a warrant.
“I am deeply concerned by the escalation of violence in Sri Lanka after the prime minister’s supporters attacked peaceful protesters in Colombo yesterday May 9 and the subsequent mob violence against members of the ruling party,” Bachelet said in a statement on Tuesday.
Despite the curfew, there were outbreaks of violence in Colombo and across the country, against both protesters and government supporters.
Several Rajapaksa houses were set on fire in different parts of the country, while a family museum in their ancestral village, including life-sized wax figures of their parents, was destroyed.
“He then committed suicide with his revolver,” a police officer told AFP by phone.
Another ruling party politician who was not named opened fire on protesters, killing two and injuring five in the south, police added.
“They may be killers, but for us they are patients who need treatment first,” a doctor yelled at a crowd blocking the entrance to the emergency room.
In another sign of rapidly deteriorating security, vigilantes blocked the main road to Colombo airport on Tuesday and halted all traffic to check if Rajapaksa loyalists were trying to leave the island, witnesses said.
The 76-year-old said he resigned to pave the way for a unity government.
Under Sri Lanka’s political system, even with a new unity government, the president will have the power to appoint and dismiss ministers and judges, and enjoy immunity from prosecution.
But political sources said attempts were being made to arrange an online meeting between the president and all political parties.
“Unless President Rajapaksa resigns, no one — be it the masses on the streets or key political stakeholders — will be satisfied,” Wilson Center analyst Michael Kugelman told AFP.
This forced the government to ban many imports, leading to severe shortages, inflation and prolonged power outages.
aj-ash-stu / ser
Originally published as Hundreds Defy Sri Lanka Curfew After Deadly Unrest