Shoot-on-sight orders issued to quell SL riots

May 11, 2022

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s defence ministry on Tuesday ordered troops to shoot on sight people involved in looting or damaging property, a day after mobs targeted the homes of ruling-party...

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COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s defence ministry on Tuesday ordered troops to shoot on sight people involved in looting or damaging property, a day after mobs targeted the homes of ruling-party politicians.

"Security forces have been ordered to shoot on sight anyone looting public property or causing harm to life," the ministry said. The order came as the government deployed tens of thousands of army, navy and air force personnel to patrol tense streets of the capital Colombo and elsewhere after a day of violence.

Police said on Tuesday eight people, including two policemen, were killed and 65 homes damaged during an orgy of violence overnight. Forty-one of the homes were burned. Official figures showed that 88 cars and busses were destroyed along with hundreds of motorcycles.

Sri Lanka is under a state of emergency since Friday giving sweeping powers to the military to arrest and detain suspects. The government also declared a two-day curfew after pro-government activists on Monday smashed a peaceful month-long protest in the capital demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The main hospital in the capital said 219 people were wounded in Monday’s attacks and admitted for treatment. Another six people were wounded in violence elsewhere. On Tuesday afternoon, the top police officer in Colombo was assaulted and his vehicle set ablaze by an angry mob which accused him of failing to prevent an attack against peaceful protesters on Monday.

The Rajapaksa clan’s hold on power has been shaken by months of blackouts and shortages in Sri Lanka, the worst economic crisis since it became independent in 1948. But Monday’s attacks on the protests represented a turning point after weeks of peaceful demonstrations. "We were hit, the media were hit, women and children were hit," one witness told AFP, asking not to be named.

On Monday, police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse crowds and declared an immediate curfew in Colombo, a measure later widened to include the entire South Asian nation of 22 million people.

Authorities said the curfew will be lifted Wednesday morning, with government and private offices, as well as shops and schools, ordered to remain shut on Tuesday. Police and the local human rights commission said they have started separate investigations into Monday’s violence.

Meanwhile, the European Union on Tuesday condemned the "vicious attack" on civilians in Sri Lanka that sparked deadly rioting on the island and called on all sides to avoid further violence.

"The European Union (EU) and its 27 Member States are monitoring closely developments in Sri Lanka. The EU condemns the recent vicious attack against peaceful protestors in Colombo, which triggered further violence after a month of peaceful demonstrations," the bloc said in a statement.

"The EU deplores the loss of life, including of a Member of Parliament, and the high number of injured people".

The European bloc called on the Sri Lankan authorities "to initiate an investigation into the events and to hold accountable those instigating or perpetrating violence. The EU urges all parties to refrain from violence and to show restraint."

Sri Lankan authorities issued shoot-on-sight orders on Tuesday to quell further unrest a day after the island was rocked by deadly violence and rioting. On Monday, government supporters attacked with sticks and clubs demonstrators in Colombo protesting peacefully for weeks over an economic crisis and demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

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.

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