Sri Lankan protesters burn politicians’ homes as country descends further into chaos


Colombia, Sri Lanka
CNN

Protesters in Sri Lanka torched homes belonging to 38 politicians as the crisis-hit country descended further into chaos, with the government ordering troops to “shoot on sight”.

Police in the island nation said on Tuesday that in addition to homes destroyed, 75 were damaged, as angry Sri Lankans continue to defy a nationwide curfew to protest what they say is mismanagement by the government of the country’s worst economic crisis since 1948.

The Department of Defense on Tuesday ordered troops to shoot anyone found damaging state property or assaulting officials, after violence has claimed at least eight lives since Monday, although it is unclear whether all of the deaths were directly linked to the protests. More than 200 people were injured in the violence.

The nation of 22 million has been grappling with a devastating economic crisis, with prices of daily consumer goods soaring and widespread power shortages for weeks. Since March, thousands of anti-government protesters have taken to the streets, demanding the resignation of the government.

The army had to rescue outgoing Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in a pre-dawn operation on Tuesday, hours after he resigned following clashes between pro and anti-government protesters. The army was called in after protesters twice tried to enter the grounds of the prime minister’s private residence “Temple Trees” overnight, a senior security source told CNN.

His resignation came after live television footage on Monday showed government supporters, armed with batons, beating protesters at several locations in the capital, and demolishing and burning their tents. Dozens of homes have been burned across the country amid the violence, according to witnesses CNN spoke to.

Armed troops were deployed to disperse protesters, according to CNN’s team on the ground, while video footage showed police firing tear gas and water cannons.

A national curfew has been imposed until Thursday.

However, it remains unclear whether the curfew and the Prime Minister’s resignation will be enough to contain the increasingly volatile situation in the country.

Many protesters say their ultimate goal is to force President Gotabaya Rajapaksa – the prime minister’s brother – to resign, something he has so far shown no signs of doing.

The president on Tuesday urged citizens to “remain calm and end violence and acts of revenge against citizens, regardless of their political affiliation.”

“Every effort will be made to restore political stability by consensus, within the constitutional mandate and to resolve the economic crisis,” the president tweeted.

In a statement on Tuesday, the European Union and its 27 member states condemned the “recent brutal attack on peaceful protesters” and called on authorities to investigate.

Anti-government protesters demonstrate near the president's office in Colombo on May 10.

“The EU deplores the loss of life, including that of an MEP, and the high number of injuries,” the statement said. “The EU recalls the importance of safeguarding the democratic rights of all citizens and focusing on solutions that will address the significant challenges currently facing Sri Lankans.”

Sri Lanka’s neighbor India also weighed in.

“As a close neighbor of Sri Lanka, with historical ties, India fully supports its democracy, stability and economic recovery,” a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Tuesday.

“In line with our Neighborhood First policy, India has this year alone provided support worth over $3.5 billion to the people of Sri Lanka to help them overcome their current hardships. India will always be guided by the best interests of the people of Sri Lanka expressed through democratic processes.

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