Colombo: At least 23 people were injured as supporters of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on Monday attacked anti-government demonstrators gathered at a protest site near his official residence to demand for the premier’s resignation, prompting authorities to deploy Army troops to bring the situation under control.
The violence occurred following reports on Monday that Mahinda Rajapksa may offer to stand down as Prime Minister, as pressure mounts on the embattled government led by his younger brother and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to form an interim administration to overcome the worst economic crisis facing the country.
The Sri Lankan PM later resigned in the afternoon.
Rajapaksa, 76, under intense pressure from within his own Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) ranks to resign, was gathering his supporters to apply counterpressure not to stand down.
“While emotions are running high in #lka, I urge our general public to exercise restraint & remember that violence only begets violence. The economic crisis we’re in needs an economic solution which this administration is committed to resolving,” Prime Minister Mahinda tweeted.
Earlier, Rajapaksa told his thousands of supporters gathered outside his house that nothing would deter him.
“I am so used to seeing protests and agitations, nothing would deter me. I am experienced enough to face any situation,” Rajapaksa said.
A tense situation prevailed as a group of supporters of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa attacked the protesters outside the ‘MainaGoGama’, a protest site near Temple Trees, the official residence of the Prime Minister, Daily Mirror, an online news platform, reported.
The tents opposite Temple Trees were dismantled by a mob, Lanka First, a leading news network, reported.
Police used water cannons to disperse the unruly SLPP protestors who are at the Galle Face green protest site, Hiru News website reported.
At least 23 people were injured in the violence. The police formed a human chain to prevent the protesters from entering GotaGoGama. However, the mob pushed their way past the police human chain and attacked GotaGoGama.
A military contingent was deployed to the protest site to assist law enforcement.
Opposition leader of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya Sajith Premadasa visited the GotaGoGama protest site to assess the situation.
The Opposition sources said a group had also attacked Premadasa and his colleagues as he arrived at the presidential secretariat protest site.
It accused Mahinda Rajapaksa of instigating his supporters. Later, the government deployed Army troops to bring the situation under control.
A curfew was enforced in Colombo with immediate effect after the violence.
The Rajapaksa brothers- President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa have so far defied calls for their resignation.
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