An ally of the Rajapaksa political family was ap-pointed Friday as Sri Lanka’s prime minister, hours after security forces cleared the main protest site occupied for months by demonstrators angry at the Rajapaksas over the country’s economic collapse.
New President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was elected by lawmakers and sworn into office earlier this week, appointed his school classmate Dinesh Gunawardena to succeed himself. Gunawardena is 73 and belongs to a prominent political family.
Sri Lankans have taken to the streets for months demanding their leaders resign over an economic crisis that has left the island nation’s 22 million people short of essentials like medicine, food and fuel.
The protests forced out former President Gota-baya Rajapaksa last week. His family has ruled Sri Lanka for most of the last two decades, but public outrage over the economic crisis forced several family members to leave ministry posts earlier in the crisis.
Gunawardena’s appointment came hours after security forces made several arrests and cleared a protest camp near the presidential palace in the capi-tal, Colombo, where demonstrators have gathered for the past 104 days. Army and police personnel arrived in trucks and buses around midnight, removing tents and blocking off roads leading to the site. The overnight raid occurred even though protesters had announced they would vacate the site on Friday voluntarily.
The security forces were witnessed beating up at least two journalists. At least two lawyers also were assaulted when they went to the protest site to offer their counsel, said the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, the main lawyers’ body in the country. It also said one lawyer and several journalists were arrested.
The lawyers’ association called for a halt to the “unjustified and disproportionate actions” of armed forces targeting civilians. It called on Wick-remesinghe to ensure he and his government re-spected the rule of law and citizens’ rights.—Reuters