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Sri Lankan troops given shooting orders to ‘control’ violence

Members of Sri Lankan security personnel stand beside burnt cars near former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s official residence a day after they were torched by protesters in Colombo on May 10, 2022. | Photo Credit: AFP

Sri Lanka’s tri-forces on Tuesday received shooting orders to “bring violence under control”, authorities said, amid a spate of retaliatory attacks targeting government members.

“Defence Ministry has ordered the tri-forces to shoot at persons causing harm to life or involved in theft of property,” the Army said.

Temple Trees, the official residence of the PM, which Mahinda Rajapaksa has left on May 10 morning, following his resignation on May 9.

Temple Trees, the official residence of the PM, which Mahinda Rajapaksa has left on May 10 morning, following his resignation on May 9. | Photo Credit: Meera Srinivasan

On Monday, Rajapaksa supporters assaulted peaceful anti-government protesters, who have demanding that the ruling clan quit over a crippling economic crisis, at agitation sites in different locations.

The violent mob attack in turn triggered violence by some anti-government elements, apparently outraged by the attack on protesters. They vandalised and torched vehicles and property belonging to Ministers and government MPs in many areas. Over 100 vehicles have been damaged and more than 100 structures, including homes, have been set to fire in the past two days, according to Army media.

“The Secretary [to the Ministry of Defence] has given the orders,” Defence spokesman Lt. Col. Nalin Herath told The Hindu. Asked about the rationale behind the move, he said: “Despite a police curfew that came into effect yesterday, violent incidents have continued in different parts. This is for us to assist the police to control the situation,” he said, after widespread criticism over police “inaction” on Monday. Military personnel were instructed to use “required force”, he added.

Protesters rebuild tent city

Even before the shooting orders were given, leaders warned of an enhanced military role, when troops were deployed across the country in the wake of Monday’s clashes. Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa said in a tweet on Tuesday morning: “In the guise of angry mobs, violence is being incited so military rule can be established. Rule of law should be maintained through the constitution not with GUNS. It is time to empower citizens, not disempower them.”

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Printable version | May 11, 2022 2:23:47 pm |