Saturday, December 9, 2023

UN chief deeply concerned about escalation of violence in Sri Lanka: spokesperson

UN chief

United Nations, May 11: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is deeply concerned about the escalation of violence in Sri Lanka and calls on all parties to exercise restraint and find a solution to the ongoing crisis through dialogue, his spokesperson has said.
The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the escalation of violence in Sri Lanka. He condemns all violence and calls on all parties to exercise restraint. He continues to encourage all Sri Lankan stakeholders to find a solution to the current challenges through dialogue, Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General, told PTI.
On Monday, following Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s resignation amid the ongoing crisis, Haq had said at the daily news briefing here that the UN has taken note of the resignation of the Prime Minister.
We continue to encourage all Sri Lankan stakeholders to find a solution to the current challenges through dialogue and with the interests of the country and the people in mind, Haq said.
At the same time, we’ve also been concerned about the recent violence against peaceful protesters, and we urge calm and restraint, as well as respect for democratic rights, including the right… the freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly, Haq said.
Sri Lankan authorities on Wednesday deployed troops and military vehicles in the streets to ensure public security in the Capital amidst nationwide protests over the government’s failure to tackle the worst economic crisis.
The deployment came a day after the country’s Ministry of Defence ordered the Army, the Air Force and the Navy personnel to open fire on anyone looting public property or causing harm to others amidst violent protests in the island nation over the unprecedented economic crisis.
Mahinda, 76, resigned as prime minister on Monday amid unprecedented economic turmoil in the country, hours after his supporters attacked anti-government protesters, prompting authorities to impose a nationwide curfew and deploy Army troops in the capital. The attack triggered widespread violence against pro-Rajapaksa politicians.
Sri Lanka orders ‘offensive’ to contain riots
Sri Lankan police have been ordered to go on the offensive and use live ammunition to stop rioting, a top official told AFP Wednesday, after another night of sporadic arson attacks.
Police say eight people have died since Monday, when frustration at the island’s dire economic crisis erupted into violence between supporters and opponents of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Even with a curfew imposed and thousands of security forces told to “shoot on sight” to prevent further unrest, a luxury hotel said to belong to a Rajapaksa relative was set ablaze Tuesday evening.
“It is no longer spontaneous anger, but organised violence,” the senior security official said on condition of anonymity.
“If the situation is not brought under control, there could be total anarchy.”
The security official said the 85,000-strong police “have been asked to adopt an offensive stance”, and have been ordered to use live ammunition against troublemakers.
A curfew imposed soon after violence broke out on Monday was due to be lifted on Wednesday morning, but it was extended by another 24 hours due to continuing violence.
As well as the hotel fire, on Tuesday evening police said they shot into the air at two locations to disperse mobs trying to torch vehicles.
They also stepped up security for several judges, saying they were targeted too.
The unrest in Sri Lanka has spiralled after Monday’s events, when government supporters with sticks and clubs attacked demonstrators in Colombo protesting peacefully for weeks over the economic crisis and demanding President Rajapaksa’s resignation.
Mobs then retaliated across the country late into the night, torching dozens of homes of ruling-party politicians and trying to storm the prime minister’s official residence in the capital.
Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president’s brother, had to be rescued in a pre-dawn military operation on Tuesday after thousands of angry protesters stormed his residence hours after his resignation as prime minister.
Sri Lanka had just opened staff-level talks with the International Monetary Fund on a possible bail out after the country ran out of dollars to import even the most essential items.
Echoing calls from the UN rights chief and the European Union, the United States on Tuesday said it was both concerned with the escalating violence and the deployment of the military.
“We stress that peaceful protesters should never be subjected to violence or intimidation, whether that’s on the part of the military force or civilian units,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters. (PTI/AFP)