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Massive crowd to march to Colombo demanding Sri Lankan President, govt to step-down

Sri Lanka’s opposition parties, religious groups, civil rights activists have planned a massive march to capital Colombo on Saturday demanding President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the government to step down amidst unprecedented economic crisis and virtual lockdown of the country.

Parties representing farmers, fishermen, clergies, medical experts, civil rights groups, political groups and university dons are to march to Colombo and ride their bicycles as transportation has come to complete standstill with no fuel supply.

For two weeks, Sri Lanka is in a virtual lockdown with government offices barely functioning with limited staff and schools completely closed with no transport for children and teachers.

“Public protest sent Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa home on May 9, and his brother former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa was sent home on June 9. It’s time for their brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa to go home on July 9,” civil rights activist told media.

Claiming the rights to freedom of expression, courts have rejected orders sought by police to prevent protesters entering Colombo or marching towards President’s house on July 8 and 9.

Inspector General of Police (IGP) C.D. Wickramaratne requested protesters to exercise the right to protest within the legal framework.

In a public statement, the IGP said that the Police respect the right of the people to hold peaceful
protests and assemblies, but would not tolerate those who behave violently by damaging public
property.

The Government has summoned thousands of military and police to capital Colombo and security is in place.

Activists have warned that the government was “planning to create violence” on Saturday using the military and police.

US Ambassador to Colombo, Julie Chung cautioned the security forces to ensure right to protest.

“Reminding military and police to grant peaceful protesters the space and security to do so. Chaos and force will not fix the economy or bring the political stability that Sri Lankans need right now,” the US Ambassador tweeted urging the protestors to not to resort to violence.

“Violence is not an answer. If you are going to protest, please do so peacefully.”

Despite court orders, on Thursday, hundreds of Buddhist monks marched to Colombo and started a ‘Satygraha’ campaign demanding the resignation of President Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Several monks said if Gotabaya does not step down, they would launch a hunger strike until he is ousted. University teachers representing the Federation of University Teachers Association (FUTA) rode to Colombo in a bicycle parade calling an all-party government to resolve the current crisis in the country.�

Burdened with economic crisis, people surrounded President Rajapaksa’s house on March 31 and the protest ended with heavy violence by military. Subsequently, massive protest started on April 2 occupying President’s office in Galle Face Green in Colombo which was later named ‘Gota go village’.

On Saturday, thousands of protesters are asked to gather at the same venue demanding President to step down.

Bankrupt island nation faced severe food crisis with 57.4 per cent skyrocketing inflation.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has estimated almost 6.3 million people in the country are unsure of their next meal and has warned staggering instances of malnutrition.

Having cut almost all imports, Sri Lanka has come to a standstill without any fuel for both public and private transportation.

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