Dinesh Gunawardena has been sworn in as Sri Lanka’s new prime minister, simply hours after troopers and police cleared an anti-government protest web site in Colombo.
Gunawardena, a veteran member of the ruling Sri Lanka People’s Front and an ally of the Rajapaksa political household, took the oath of workplace on Friday earlier than President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was elevated to head of state from his position as prime minister by a vote in parliament on Wednesday.
The two males have been schoolmates and buddies because the age of three however lead political events which can be diametrically opposed ideologically.
Wickremesinghe, 73, is a free-market champion and a pro-West politician whereas Gunawardena, 73, is a staunch Sinhala nationalist who believes in socialism and needs higher state management over the economic system.
The cupboard is scheduled to be sworn in afterward Friday. Heavy safety was deployed outdoors the prime minister’s workplace in the course of the swearing-in ceremony.
“[Gunawardena] was part of the ruling Rajapaska coalition, so no new face in Sri Lankan politics whatsoever,” stated Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen, reporting from Colombo.
There has additionally been no proof of the president’s promise to convey new faces and to mix the ruling occasion with the opposition to create some sort of nationwide unity authorities, she added.
Sri Lankans have taken to the streets for months demanding their leaders resign over an financial disaster that has left the island nation’s 22 million folks wanting important gadgets equivalent to medication, meals and gasoline.
The protests pressured out former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa final week. His household has dominated Sri Lanka for many of the final 20 years however public outrage over the financial disaster pressured a number of relations to depart ministry posts earlier within the disaster.
Protest web site evicted
Gunawardena’s appointment got here a number of hours after safety forces made a number of arrests and cleared a protest camp near the presidential palace in Colombo, the place demonstrators have gathered for the previous 104 days.
Sri Lankan safety forces demolished the primary anti-government web site, evicting activists in a night-time assault that raised worldwide concern.
Troops wielding batons and armed with computerized assault rifles swooped in on protesters blocking the presidential secretariat.
Hundreds of troopers and police Special Task Force commandos eliminated the demonstrators’ barricades outdoors the sea-front constructing, whereas the final remaining protesters on the premises – some nonetheless on the steps – have been evicted.
By morning, the troops – armed with computerized assault rifles – surrounded the complicated and the primary roads resulting in the realm remained cordoned off.
Police spokesman Nihal Thalduwa stated the choice to make use of greater than 1,000 troopers and police to clear the protest camp in a single day had been made to permit the president’s workplace to renew its work once more.
“Police and security forces acted to clear protesters occupying the Presidential Secretariat, the main gate and the surroundings,” the police stated in a press release.
It added that 9 folks have been arrested, together with two injured.
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka, the primary physique representing attorneys within the nation, stated at the least two attorneys have been assaulted after they went to the protest web site to supply their counsel. In a press release on Friday, it known as for a halt to the “unjustified and disproportionate actions” of armed forces towards civilians.
Hundreds of activists demonstrated at a close-by designated protest web site towards the authorities’ actions, demanding Wickremesinghe resign and dissolve parliament to permit for brand spanking new elections.
Harindra Fonseka, an activist, informed Al Jazeera the pressured elimination of protesters was an act of “state-sponsored terrorism”.
“We are baffled by that decision because we have clearly communicated to the necessary authorities that we will be removing our presence from this space,” he stated.
“Unfortunately they had this disproportionate amount of force – state-sponsored terrorism one would say, or the continuous oppression towards the people of this country. We see that the political elites of the country are trying to sustain the establishment, and they have this facade that they want to do something for this country [and] for the citizens, but that is not the case,” he added.
Father Jeevantha Peiris informed Al Jazeera that protesters have been assaulted in the course of the night time.
“All of a sudden at midnight, when protesters were sleeping and when they had no knowledge, they [security forces] came and they assaulted, tortured media personnel …they had no idea what’s happening,” stated the social activist.
“Some of us, the protesters, were cruelly [assaulted] with iron rods, he added, stressing, however, that they “will not give up”.
“This protest motion may be very properly organised, with multi-ethnic multi-religious and multi-political ideologies … [We will never stop here, we will continue.”
‘Friend of the people’
Wickremesinghe had warned protesters that occupying state buildings was illegal and that they would be evicted unless they left on their own.
“If you try to topple the government, occupy the president’s office and the prime minister’s office, that is not democracy, it is against the law,” he said.
The new president has also declared a state of emergency that gives sweeping powers to armed forces and allows police to arrest and detain suspects for long periods without being charged.
Protesters have accused Wickremesinghe of being a proxy of the former president’s powerful family – a charge he has denied.
“I am not a friend of the Rajapaksas,” he told reporters at the Gangaramaya temple. “I am a friend of the people.”