Dinesh Gunawardena has been sworn in as Sri Lanka’s new prime minister, simply hours after troopers and police cleared an anti-government protest website in Colombo.
Gunawardena, a veteran member of the ruling Sri Lanka Folks’s Entrance 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 2 males have been schoolmates and mates because the age of three however lead political events which might 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 financial system.
The cupboard is scheduled to be sworn in afterward Friday. Heavy safety was deployed exterior the prime minister’s workplace throughout the swearing-in ceremony.
“[Gunawardena] was a part of the ruling Rajapaska coalition, so no new face in Sri Lankan politics by any means,” stated Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen, reporting from Colombo.
There has additionally been no proof of the president’s promise to carry new faces and to mix the ruling celebration with the opposition to create some form 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 individuals wanting important objects similar to drugs, 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 website evicted
Gunawardena’s appointment got here a number of hours after safety forces made a number of arrests and cleared a protest camp close to the presidential palace in Colombo, the place demonstrators have gathered for the previous 104 days.
Sri Lankan safety forces demolished the primary anti-government website, 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.
A whole lot of troopers and police Particular Job Power commandos eliminated the demonstrators’ barricades exterior the sea-front constructing, whereas the final remaining protesters on the premises – some nonetheless on the steps – had been evicted.
By morning, the troops – armed with computerized assault rifles – surrounded the advanced and the primary roads resulting in the world 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 safety forces acted to clear protesters occupying the Presidential Secretariat, the primary gate and the environment,” the police stated in an announcement.
It added that 9 individuals had been arrested, together with two injured.
The Bar Affiliation of Sri Lanka, the primary physique representing legal professionals within the nation, stated at the very least two legal professionals had been assaulted after they went to the protest website to supply their counsel. In an announcement on Friday, it known as for a halt to the “unjustified and disproportionate actions” of armed forces towards civilians.
A whole lot of activists demonstrated at a close-by designated protest website towards the authorities’ actions, demanding Wickremesinghe resign and dissolve parliament to permit for brand new elections.
Harindra Fonseka, an activist, instructed Al Jazeera the pressured elimination of protesters was an act of “state-sponsored terrorism”.
“We’re baffled by that call as a result of we now have clearly communicated to the required authorities that we’ll be eradicating our presence from this area,” he stated.
“Sadly that they had this disproportionate quantity of pressure – state-sponsored terrorism one would say, or the continual oppression in the direction of the individuals of this nation. We see that the political elites of the nation are attempting to maintain the institution, and so they have this facade that they need to do one thing for this nation [and] for the residents, however that’s not the case,” he added.
‘Good friend of the individuals’
Wickremesinghe had warned protesters that occupying state buildings was unlawful and that they might be evicted until they left on their very own.
“For those who attempt to topple the federal government, occupy the president’s workplace and the prime minister’s workplace, that’s not democracy, it’s towards the legislation,” he stated.
The brand new president has additionally declared a state of emergency that provides sweeping powers to armed forces and permits police to arrest and detain suspects for lengthy intervals with out being charged.
Protesters have accused Wickremesinghe of being a proxy of the previous president’s highly effective household – a cost he has denied.
“I’m not a pal of the Rajapaksas,” he instructed reporters on the Gangaramaya temple. “I’m a pal of the individuals.”