Sri Lankan soldiers and police personnels raided an anti-government protest camp and started to pull down tents in the capital city of Colombo, early on Friday, 22 July.
The crackdown happened hours before the protestors were due to vacate the site and a day after Ranil Wickremesinghe sworn-in as the new president of Sri Lanka.
Police spokesperson Nalin Thalduwa told Reuters, "A joint operation involving the military, police and police special forces was launched in the early hours to recover the presidential secretariat from the protesters as they have no legal right to hold it."
A total of nine people, including two injured, have been arrested, he added.
Protesters look on as army soldiers arrive to remove the protesters and their tents from the site of a protest camp outside the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, 22 July
(Photo: AP/PTI/Rafiq Maqbool)
Army soldiers clear anti-government protest camps after an eviction of protesters from the presidential secretariat premise in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, 22 July.
(Photo: AP/PTI/Eranga Jayawardena)
The protesters posted on social media on Thursday, 21 July, that they were planning to end their protest by 2 pm on Friday. They had been at the Secretariat's gate since 9 April when they started their anti-government protest which resulted in former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's resignation as president last week.
However, many of the demonstrators said that they refused to accept Wickremesinghe as the new president, holding him partly responsible for the country's unprecedented economic and political crisis. They further added that their struggle would continue till Wickremesinghe resigned, reported news agency PTI.
Describing the crackdown, the protest organisers said that the Sri Lankan security forces surrounded 'Gota Go Gama' protest camp after midnight and then took apart a section of it.
At Least 50 Injured
Protestors further added that dozens of troops marched through the area as daylight broke clearing out the tents on both sides of the road.
Some journalist were beaten by security forces and at least 50 protestors have been injured, they said.
Wickremesinghe, eighth president of Sri Lanka, said that the occupation of government buildings was illegal, warning that legal action would be taken against their occupiers.
Former President Rajapaksa fled the country a popular uprising due to his mishandling of the economy. The country of 22 million people has been going through the worst economic crisis in seven decades. With food and fuel prices soaring, millions have been struggling to avail essential services in the country.
(With inputs from Reuters and PTI.)