Sri Lankan MP among five killed as violence escalates | Protests News

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was forced to resign after a day of violence that saw the deaths of five people, including a ruling party MP, and reports of people attacking properties linked to the ruling party throughout the island nation.

Shots were fired from inside the Sri Lankan prime minister’s official residence on Monday as thousands of protesters broke through the main gate and set fire to a parked truck, AFP reported.

Earlier in the day, ruling party lawmaker Amarakeerthi Athukorala shot dead two people – killing a 27-year-old man – after they were surrounded by a mob in Nittambuwa, about 40 km (25 miles) from Colombo, the state said. police.

CCTV footage showed the MP and his security guard fleeing to a nearby building. They were later found dead.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the circumstances of their deaths.

Nearly 150 people were injured on Monday after government supporters armed with sticks and clubs attacked peaceful protesters.

Angry mobs stormed the homes and properties of Rajapaksa loyalists across the country despite a state of emergency and a police curfew.

The home of Saman Lal Fernando, mayor of the Colombo suburb of Moratuwa, was set on fire hours after he took eight buses full of city workers to show solidarity with the Rajapaksas.

Supporters of Sri Lanka’s ruling party attack an anti-government protester in Colombo [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]

The homes of Ministers Johnston Fernando, Kanchana Wijesekara and Prasanna Ranatunga and MPs Sanath Nishantha, Ramesh Pathirana and Nimal Lanza were also set on fire by angry people.

A tourist hotel owned by a close associate of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s children was also set on fire, along with a Lamborghini car parked inside. There were no casualties among the foreign guests, police said.

Mobs attacked the controversial Rajapaksa museum in the family’s ancestral village in the deep south of the island and razed it, police said. Two wax statues of Rajapaksa parents have been flattened.

Meanwhile, Defense Ministry Secretary Retired Major General Kamal Gunaratne urged people to calm down.

A number of religious leaders also met with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Monday evening, urging him to take immediate steps to stabilize the country. They called for the appointment of a neutral prime minister.

Blackouts and severe shortages of food, fuel

Sri Lanka has suffered months of power outages and severe shortages of food, fuel and medicine in its worst economic crisis since independence, sparking weeks of extremely peaceful anti-government protests.

On Monday, dozens of Rajapaksa worshipers attacked unarmed protesters camping outside the president’s office on the Galle Face seafront promenade in downtown Colombo since April 9, AFP journalists reported. .

Rajapaksa had addressed some 3,000 supporters at his home and pledged to “protect the interests of the nation”.

Supporters then first pulled down protesters’ tents outside the Prime Minister’s Temple Trees residence and set fire to anti-government banners and signs.

They then marched to the nearby promenade and began to destroy other tents set up by the “Gotta go home” campaign which demands that the president resign.

Police fired tear gas and water cannons and declared an immediate curfew in Colombo, which was later expanded to include the entire South Asian island nation of 22 million people.

Officials said the army riot squad had been called in to reinforce the police. Troops have been deployed throughout the crisis to protect deliveries of fuel and other essentials, but so far not to prevent clashes.

“Strongly condemn the acts of violence perpetrated by those who incite and participate, regardless of their political allegiances. Violence will not solve the current problems,” Rajapaksa tweeted.

Reporter from Colombo, Al Jazeera’s Minelle Fernandez said thousands of Rajapaksa supporters had been brought in buses from across the country to converge on his official residence.

“Mahinda Rajapaksa addressed this group, saying they will do what is best for the public interest. But this group was a very belligerent group, they were ready to fight,” she said .

“The violence unleashed by Rajapaksa’s supporters really started this day of violence.”

The attack on protesters came a day after Rajapaksa was heckled during his first public outing since nationwide protests began. On Sunday, the prime minister visited one of the holiest Buddhist temples – home to a tree believed to be 2,300 years old – in Anuradhapura.

Dozens of people carried handwritten signs and chanted slogans demanding that “thieves” be banned from the holy city, 200 km (125 miles) north of Colombo.

“Week of Protests”

Meanwhile, unions began a “week of protests” on Monday demanding a change of government and the resignation of its president, labor activist Saman Rathnapriya said, adding that more than 1,000 unions representing health, ports, Education and other key service sectors have joined the movement.

At the end of the week, they will launch a huge march to parliament, demanding the removal of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and a new government.

Nalaka Godahewa, government spokesperson, said on Monday that all cabinet members also resigned following Rajapaksa’s resignation.

“Now the president will invite other political parties to form a unity government,” he told Reuters.

Protests in Sri Lanka
Supporters of Sri Lanka’s ruling party show up as police fire tear gas in Colombo [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]

The Indian Ocean island nation is on the verge of bankruptcy and has suspended payments on its foreign loans. It defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt last month.

Hard currency shortages have also hampered imports of raw materials for manufacturing and worsened inflation, which jumped to 18.7% in March.

As oil prices skyrocket during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Sri Lanka’s fuel stocks are running low. Authorities announced massive power cuts across the country.

Protesters have taken to the streets since March, claiming that Rajapaksa and his family – who have dominated almost every aspect of life in Sri Lanka for most of the past 20 years – are responsible for the crisis.

On Friday, Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency, raising concerns among diplomats and rights groups.

Additional reporting by Rathindra Kuruwita of Colombo

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