Sri Lanka’s presidential palace will reopen on Monday, police said, days after the brutal dismantling of a camp of anti-government protesters by the military and law enforcement agencies alarmed the international community.
A police official said Sunday, on condition of anonymity, that the presidential palace is “ready to reopen on Monday”. He added that experts went to the scene to collect evidence of the damage caused by the protesters.
A protester camp was violently dismantled
Hundreds of soldiers and police armed with automatic rifles and batons brutally dismantled a camp of anti-government protesters at dawn on Friday on the orders of President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who had just been sworn in. At least 48 people were injured and nine were arrested.
Western governments, the United Nations and human rights groups have condemned Ranil Wickremesinghe for his use of violence against unarmed protesters who announced their intention to leave the site on Friday.
Ranil Wickremesinghe defended the method used and said he told diplomats based in Colombo on Friday that closing government buildings was unacceptable.
Thousands of protesters partially engulfed the building nearly two weeks ago, precipitating the downfall of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The commander, who was rescued by the army at his adjacent residence, fled to Singapore where he sent his resignation.
A bankrupt government and a shortage of fuel
Police spokesman Nihal Teldwa said on Sunday that protesters are free to continue their demonstrations at a designated location near the presidential office.
The military operation to dismantle the protest camp took place less than 24 hours after the inauguration of Ranil Wickremesinghe and before a new government was formed.
Elected for the remainder of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s term, which ends in November 2024, Ranil Wickremesinghe inherited a country torn by economic crisis, shortages of foreign currency, prone to prolonged power outages and shortages of food, fuel and medicine for months.
His bankrupt government has defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt and is currently in talks with the International Monetary Fund.
The crisis is showing no signs of easing, but the government announced on Sunday that it would reopen schools that were closed for most of the month. The Ministry of Education announced that pupils and teachers will only be required to return to school three days a week, as transportation continues to be hampered by a national fuel shortage.
Long queues to refuel were seen across the country on Sunday, despite the introduction of the rationing system.