The beginning of tenure of Sri Lanka’s Eight President has been highly controversial. While the anointment of Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe has led to muted protests, the orders of the President to rush in military boots to evict protestors from the Presidential Palace premises has invited adverse reaction internationally as well as internally alike.
In one of the first actions after adorning the office of the President, Ranil Wickremesinghe visited the Defence HQs on July 21.
Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, President Ranil Wickremesinghe was received by General Kamal Gunaratne, the Secretary to the Ministry of Defense and met with Chief of Defense Staff, Tri Forces Commanders, Inspector General of Police, Chief of National Intelligence, Director of the State Intelligence Service as per the Colombo Page.
Attorney General was also present on the occasion. It is now clear that the intention was to discuss a military crackdown on the protestors.
A notification was issued the same day by the President in accordance with the Public Security Ordinance effective from, 22 July.
“By virtue of the powers vested in me by Section 12 of the Public Security Ordinance (Chapter 40), I, Ranil Wickremesinghe, President, do by this order call out with effect from July 22, 2022 all the members of the Armed Forces specified in the First Schedule hereto, for the maintenance of public order in the areas specified in the Second Schedule hereto,” the gazette notification said.
In line with the Gazette, Colombo page reported that Sri Lanka Army, the police special task force (STF) and the police launched an operation at 0130 hours to take control of the Presidential Secretariat occupied by the protesters. The Army took over the presidential secretariat and its entrance gate but some protestors continued to stay in the tents.
The action has been widely condemned with UN Resident Coordinator to Sri Lanka Hanaa Singer-Hamdy tweeting that she is gravely concerned by the use of force to disperse protestors at Galle Face. Taking to Twitter Singer-Hamdy said journalists and human rights defenders have a right to monitor demonstrations and their functions should not be impeded. She pointed out that actions that stifle protests and the right to peaceful assembly can worsen economic and political instability in Sri Lanka.
Sajith Premadasa, the leader of the Opposition in the parliament called it a cowardly attack.
Will militarization of the political and economic crisis provide a solution remains to be seen? On the first instance international agencies are likely to be irked by the unwarranted assault when the protestors had assured that they would vacate the premises on July 22.
Internal political consensus is also likely to be limited as the opposition will not accept the assault.
Ironically the crackdown comes on a day when, Sri Lanka’s nationwide inflation in June 2022 determined under the National Consumer Price Index (NCPI) jumped to 58.9 percent from 45.3 percent recorded in May 2022 on a year-on-year basis, the Department of Census and Statistics