Police arrest key protest leader amid fears of August 9 agitation
COLOMBO – A prominent Sri Lankan protester was arrested by the Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) on Monday (Aug 1), the latest in a series of arrests amid fears of an August 9 popular uprising similar to the July 9 protest that led to former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa fleeing the country and subsequently submitting his resignation.
Social activist and YouTuber Rathindu Senaratne, popularly known as ‘Ratta’, was arrested for violating the law and breaching a court order during a protest against the government, held on a main road in front of the World Trade Centre in Colombo on May 21.
Ratta was arrested when he voluntarily appeared to give a statement over the arrest of another protest leader, Pathum Kerner, accused of breaching police barriers near the parliament junction.
The series of arrests come amidst reports of another massive protest, similar to the July 9 uprising, planned for August 9. The July 9 protest saw an angry public force their way into the President’s Place and the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo, seeking the ouster of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled the country fearing for his life. The protest planned for August 9 is reportedly to force President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who succeed Rajapaksa through a parliament vote, to resign.
Wickremesinghe has been tough on protesters, and has frequently described them as ‘fascists’. On July 18, Wickremesinghe, as acting president, declared state of emergency giving wide powers for police to arrest people. Parliament later approved the declaration of emergency by 120 votes, with 63 voting against it.
On July 22, a day after Wickremesinghe took over as the president, the military attacked and evicted the protesters inside and near the Presidential Secretariat which was occupied by the agitators since July 9.
The number of protesters in the ‘GotaGoGama’ protest site, which had attracted large crowds since April 2022, has also declined sharply amid the series of arrests. They have been demanding Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign and all Rajapaksa family members to leave their government positions.
The protesters have said the 9th of the each month has been a lucky day for them after former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was forced to resign on May 9, his brother, former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa resigned on June 9 and Gotabaya Rajapapksa fled the presidential palace on July 9.