Police give ultimatum to protesters to vacate main protest site and adjacent areas
COLOMBO – The Sri Lankan police on Wednesday (3) set an August 5 deadline for the protesters to remove all illegal tents and camps at Galle Face, the epicentre of protests in Colombo against the previous Rajapaksa regime, or face legal action.
All those who are illegally occupying Galle Face near the presidential office and adjacent areas must vacate before 5:00 p.m. on Friday, August 5, said the statement from Sri Lanka Police.
The statement said the site belongs to the Urban Development Authority and those who do not comply with the instructions will be dealt with as per the law.
The protesters have been occupying the area, including the gate of the presidential secretariat, since April 9, forcing former Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign as the president.
After the resignation of Rajapaksa on July 14 and the appointment of his successor Ranil Wickremesinghe, the protesters were forcibly evicted from the presidential secretariat and the gate on Jul 22, drawing widespread international condemnation.
Making his policy speech at the ceremonial sitting in Parliament on Wednesday, Wickremesinghe requested the peaceful protesters to refrain from remaining at unauthorized sites to protest.
He said the Colombo and Kandy Municipal Councils would provide a place to protest.
He said he would be setting up a bureau to protect the rights of the peaceful protesters.
Wickremesinghe said the peaceful protesting groups had been hijacked by extreme political groups with violent motives.
The protesters, however, claim that a number of them have been arrested in the ongoing crackdown.
Sri Lanka has seen months of mass unrest over the worst economic crisis, with the government declaring bankruptcy in mid-April by refusing to honour its international debt.
The worst economic crisis since 1948 has led to severe shortages of fuel and other essentials.