Monitoring by Sri Lanka’s new President Wickremesinghe of brutal police and military attacks on protesters

In the early hours of Friday morning, hundreds of Sri Lankan soldiers and police attacked Colombo’s central protest camp, Galle Face Green. State forces attacked protesters with balaclavas on their faces and wielding batons, as well as heavy weapons, injuring dozens so badly that many had to be hospitalized.

Sri Lanka’s President-elect Ranil Wickremesinghe signing, after being sworn in during his swearing-in ceremony, in a photo provided by the Office of the President of Sri Lanka, Colombo, Sri Lanka, Thursday, July 21, 2022. [Kilde: Sri Lankas presidentkontor, via AP]

The raid, which took place in the dark at 2 a.m., is Ranil Wickremesinghe’s first official act after being sworn in as Speaker of the Sri Lankan Parliament on Wednesday. It is a clear warning of what the right-wing, imperialist-backed leader of the United National Party has in store.

Since his predecessor, former President Rajapakse, fled the country last week as a criminal, Wickremesinghe has pledged to quell the massive protest movement that has rocked the island for the past three months.

Friday morning’s attack was directly initiated by Wickremesinghe, who declared on Wednesday evening shortly after his inauguration: “We will deal with them firmly, in accordance with the law. We will not allow a minority of protesters to suppress the aspirations of the silent majority, which is fighting for change in the political system.

Claims that protesters are a “minority” oppressing a “silent majority” are pathetic lies that no one will believe. The protests and strikes were the largest in Sri Lanka’s history. What Wickremesinghe really foreshadowed was the deployment of massive military force to try to crush this massive movement.

The morning raid went ahead despite protesters saying they wanted to end the occupation of the Presidential Secretariat, located opposite Galle Face Green. Their assurance was in response to warnings from Wickremesinghe that any occupation of public buildings was illegal and those involved would be dealt with according to law. The raid was planned in the middle of the night, to catch protesters while most were sleeping and to ensure the attack was not met with any wider mobilization.

State brutality included the police assault on a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) journalist. An unknown number of those attacked had to be hospitalized and some were seriously injured.

The attack is a step forward in a feverish campaign by the political elite to restore capitalist rule. This is taking place under conditions of massive hostility towards the entire political establishment. The protesters’ call now, after demanding Rajapakse’s resignation, is for Wickremesinghetil to step down. He has no popular support and was not elected president by ordinary citizens of the country, but by parliament.

“Down with the 225 parliamentarians” is a long-standing popular demand of the working class and the protest movement.

Riot police block students at Sri Jayawardanapura University, April 3, 2022 [WSWS Media]

While overseeing the crackdown on protesters, Wickremesinghe reiterated his call for all parliamentary parties to support him. Referring to the fraudulent electoral process on Wednesday, he said: “We have been divided over the past 48 hours. This period is over. Now we have to work together.

Alec Dittman

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