- Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence ordered to open fire on anyone looting public property
- The death toll rose to eight in the unprecedented violent clashes
- Mahinda Rajapaksa has quit as prime minister
Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence on Tuesday ordered the Army, the Air Force and the Navy personnel to open fire on anyone looting public property or causing harm to others amidst violent protests in the island nation over the unprecedented economic and political crisis. The order came after embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa urged people to stop "violence and acts of revenge" against fellow citizens and vowed to address the political and economic crisis facing the nation.
Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary General (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne on Tuesday urged protestors to exercise calm and not resort to violence. He warned if looting and property damage continues, the Ministry of Defence will be compelled to strictly enforce the law against the violators. “I appeal young men and women to refrain from engaging in violence. Do not set fire to public and private property, and engage in your struggle in the democratic & peaceful manner,” he said.
The Defence Secretary warned that looters have taken the opportunity to commit crime under the guise of the peaceful protests, adding that it is a very unfortunate situation. His stern warning came amid reports that anti-government protesters were demonstrating outside the Trincomalee Naval Base where former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family have reportedly taken refuge. Gunaratne also appealed religious leaders to advice the youth on peaceful conduct.
Meanwhile, the death toll rose to eight in the unprecedented violence that erupted after supporters of then prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa attacked anti-government protesters here on Monday. Though Mahinda Rajapaksa, 76, has quit as prime minister, this has failed to bring calm. The anti-government protesters are also seeking the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the younger brother of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Nearly 250 people have been injured in the violence in Colombo and other parts of the country.
Earlier, The Ministry of Defence said it has ordered the tri-forces to open fire on anyone looting public property or causing harm to others. A curfew is in force across the island nation after mobs burned down the ancestral home belonging to the ruling Rajapaksa family amid mounting anger at the worst economic crisis. Anti-government protesters have also set up a checkpoint on the road leading to the Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo to prevent the Rajapaksa family loyalists from fleeing the country.
Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since gaining independence from Britain in 1948. The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.