Protesters demand the arrest of the former Sri Lankan prime minister over the attack

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Protesters attacked earlier this week by Sri Lankan government supporters demanded that the newly appointed prime minister arrest his predecessor for allegedly inciting the attack on them as they demanded his resignation.

A group of protesters camped outside the official residence of new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was appointed Thursday night by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in a bid to retain power and quell the island nation’s political and economic crisis.

For months, Sri Lankans have been forced to wait in long queues to buy scarce imported essentials such as medicine, fuel, cooking gas and food due to severe shortages. of foreign currency.

Sri Lankans protest (Eranga Jayawardena/AP)

The president’s brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, resigned as prime minister on Monday after the attack on peaceful protesters sparked a wave of violence across the country.

Nine people were killed and more than 200 injured.

The group of around 10 protesters camped out at the prime minister’s residence on Friday said they did not trust Mr Wickremesinghe, a former five-time prime minister, as he is close to the Rajapaksas.

“If he is really on the side of the people,” he should have Mahinda Rajapaksa arrested, said Wimal Jayasuriya, a 43-year-old teacher. If he doesn’t stop him, “then he has to get ready to leave.”

Mr Jayasuriya and the others said they were among protesters who were attacked with metal and wooden poles on Monday by Rajapaksa supporters who were leaving the prime minister’s residence after meeting him.

Thousands of protesters have joined weeks of demonstrations outside the president’s office and the prime minister’s residence to demand their resignation due to the country’s economic crisis.

Mahinda Rajapaksa and her family have taken refuge in a fortified naval base at Trincomalee on the northeast coast. A court on Thursday issued travel bans against him, his former cabinet minister son and 15 others, including other former ministers, pending an investigation into the attack on protesters.

Mr Wickremesinghe’s appointment has faced opposition from some politicians and religious leaders who say he is part of a corrupt system they want to see overhauled.

As prime minister from 2015 to 2019, Mr Wickremesinghe was accused of shielding the Rajapaksa family from allegations of corruption and other crimes after Mahinda Rajapaksa lost a presidential election in 2015.

The main opposition party, which split from Mr Wickremesinghe’s leadership in 2020, also opposes his appointment as prime minister.

Wickremesinghe says he can prove he has the support of a majority in parliament and will be able to solve the country’s economic problems.

Sri Lanka is on the verge of bankruptcy and has suspended the repayment of its foreign loans pending negotiations on a bailout plan with the International Monetary Fund.

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