Sri Lanka: Flashpoints in deadly violence over economic crisis

Monday saw fierce clashes between government loyalists and protesters, resulting in seven deaths and forcing PM Mahinda Rajapaksa to resign.

Sri Lanka unrest
A man walks past damaged vehicles after they were set on fire during the violence in Colombo [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]

Seven people have been killed and more than 225 wounded in a wave of violence in Sri Lanka where the prime minister resigned after weeks of protests over a worsening economic crisis.

As violence spread late into Monday night, authorities imposed an indefinite curfew across the nation of 22 million people and called in the military to help contain the violence.

Anti-government protesters who had been demonstrating peacefully since April 9 began retaliating after they were attacked by supporters of outgoing premier Mahinda Rajapaksa.

In a pre-dawn move on Tuesday, heavily armed troops evacuated the 76-year-old leader from his official residence after protesters breached the main gate.

Defying the curfew, hundreds of protesters also swarmed the entrance to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office in Colombo for the 32nd day to demand that he follow in his elder brother’s footsteps and quit.

Here are the main incidents of the unrest in the island:

MP shoots protesters

Leaving Colombo on Monday, governing party legislator Amarakeerthi Athukorala opened fire on demonstrators blocking his vehicle, killing a 27-year-old man and wounding two others.

Police said the MP later took his own life, but the party said he had been murdered. The lawmaker’s bodyguard was also killed, but it was not clear how.

A provincial politician from Rajapaksa’s party, who has not been named, allegedly shot dead two and wounded three people in the southern town of Weeraketiya on Monday. He is missing.

Politicians’ homes burned

At least 41 homes of top governing party politicians were torched overnight despite curfews. Hundreds of motorcycles parked in those homes were also burned.

“This is something we should have done earlier,” an unidentified man in front of a burning home of a minister told a local media network. “We are sorry we couldn’t burn it sooner.”

The home and shrine of President Rajapaksa’s personal shaman, Gnana Akka, was destroyed in an arson attack in the north-central town of Anuradhapura.

A property belonging to a government minister is consumed by flames in Sri Lanka
Anti-government demonstrators set fire to the house owned by Minister Sanath Nishantha in Arachchikattuwa, Sri Lanka [Reuters]

Rajapaksa museum destroyed

Mobs attacked a museum about the Rajapaksas in the ruling family’s ancestral village of Meda Mulana in the deep south of the island and razed it to the ground, police said.

Two wax statues of the Rajapaksa parents were flattened and mobs trashed the building as well as the nearby ancestral Rajapaksa home.

A political office of the Rajapaksas in the northwestern town of Kurunegala was also destroyed in an arson attack.

State symbol hit

Mobs set fire to a truck used by security forces to block the main entrance to the prime minister’s official Temple Trees residence in Colombo, a key symbol of state power in the South Asian country.

Police used tear gas and fired shots into the air to beat back the crowds, as thousands of protesters breached the main gate. The outgoing premier was evacuated by the military before dawn on Tuesday.

Some of the tear gas canisters hit the US embassy compound across the road from Temple Trees, but there were no reports of casualties.

A hotel owned by a close associate of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s children was also set ablaze, along with a Lamborghini car parked inside. There were no casualties among foreign guests, police said.

Sri Lanka unrest
A man walks past damaged vehicles after they were set on fire during Monday’s violence [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]

Hospital blocked

Doctors at the main Colombo National Hospital intervened to rescue government supporters who were wounded in clashes with anti-Rajapaksa demonstrators.

“They may be murderers, but for us, they are patients who must be treated first,” a doctor shouted at a crowd blocking the entrance to the emergency unit.

A total of 219 people were admitted to the Colombo National Hospital alone, with five in intensive care, hospital spokeswoman Pushpa Soysa told the AFP news agency on Tuesday.

Soldiers had to break the locks to force open the gates and enter the hospital to bring in wounded government supporters.

Lake dunking

Enraged anti-government protesters pushed dozens of people into the shallow Beira Lake near the Temple Trees residence.

“I came because I got a job from Mahinda [Rajapaksa],” a man said, as he pleaded to be allowed out of the highly polluted lake.

Sri Lanka unrest
Sri Lanka’s ruling party supporters are seen in Beira Lake after they jumped in there to protect themselves from anti-government demonstrators in Colombo [Reuters]

Police rescued the man and more than a dozen others late on Monday night and admitted them to hospital.

Six vehicles, including two buses used to transport Rajapaksa loyalists, were also submerged.

Buses burned, damaged

Dozens of buses used by Rajapaksa supporters to travel to Colombo earlier in the day were torched or damaged across the country.

In the suburb of Maharagama, a crowd forced a leader of a pro-government group out of a bus and threw him into a rubbish cart before ramming the vehicle with a bulldozer.

Source: News Agencies