Sri Lankan protestors granted court reprieve, anti-government protests may continue until August 10

Anti-government protests near Sri Lanka’s presidential office could continue for another week after the attorney general told a high court here on Friday that protesters would be removed from the Galle Fee protest site by August 10. No action will be taken. The development came a day after protesters vowed to defy police orders to vacate the area by Friday evening.

The protesters said the police had not obtained a court order to remove them from the Galle Fee area, which was the epicenter of anti-government protests here against the previous Rajapakse government. Three writ petitions were filed by the protesters in the Court of Appeal on Thursday after the police ordered them to leave the protest site.

The Attorney General told the court on Friday that the constructions will not be removed without following due legal procedures. Sri Lankan police on Wednesday set an August 5 deadline for protesters to remove all illegal tents and camps in Galle Fee near the presidential office.

The police claimed that the structures were illegal and required to be removed as per law as the site is owned by the Urban Development Authority. On Wednesday and Friday, protesters removed some of the structures following police orders. The protesters have been occupying the area including the gate of the Presidential Secretariat since April 9.

They also claimed that the area was designated as a protest site by the previous government headed by former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and they need not leave the protest site. In March, protesters began demonstrating against the Rajapakse family and demanding the resignation of the entire Rajapakse family, leading to the assassination on May 9 of then-Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and his brother President Gotabaya Rajapakse, who was 13. On July, he fled the country and resigned. Resigned from Singapore the next day.

Following the resignation of Rajapakse and the appointment of his successor, Ranil Wickramasinghe, protesters were forcibly evicted from the Presidential Secretariat and Gate on 22 July, drawing international condemnation. On Friday, July 22, Sri Lankan security forces forcibly dispersed people at a peaceful protest site near the presidential secretariat, attacking them and injuring more than 50 people, according to a statement by the Human Rights Watch group.

Sri Lanka is witnessing the worst economic crisis since independence in 1948. It is also in default on international loans. With the United Nations warning that 5.7 million people are “in urgent need of humanitarian assistance”, Sri Lankans are facing severe shortages of essential goods, including food, fuel and medicine.

Sri Lanka’s new government is tasked with bringing the country out of economic ruin and restoring peace. Sri Lanka has seen widespread unrest for months over the worst economic crisis, with the government declaring bankruptcy in mid-April after defaulting on its international debts.

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