Former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his close confidants led by MP Johnston Fernando and Sanath Nishantha provoked SLPP supporters and instigated them to attack peaceful protesters in front of Temple Trees and Galle Face in a final attempt to retain power that resulted in a bloodbath in the country.
Violence escalated all over the country, when a large number of Mahinda Rajapaksa supporters attacked peaceful protesters at the GotaGoGama protest site at Galle Face in Colombo yesterday (9), killing several people, including a Parliamentarian and injuring dozens others.
After creating the chaos, Prime Minister Rajapaksa tendered his resignation to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
At least 223 persons were injured during the attack on Temple Trees and Galle Face.
The incidents began following Prime Minister Rajapaksa’s meeting with SLPP supporters in the morning. The supporters urged Rajapaksa not to resign. The PM at the meeting vowed to his supporters that he would make any sacrifice on behalf of the country.
According to video footage, the supporters were seen urging each other to visit ‘GotaGoGama’ after the meeting.
They then assaulted anti-government protesters who were part of the protest site that was set up in front of Temple Trees under the name ‘MynaGoGama.’
They confronted the anti-government protesters, started to break the huts. Anti-government protesters were assaulted by Rajapaksa supporters and several of their protest-related material was removed and set alight by SLPP supporters.
A few photojournalists were also attacked by several SLPP supporters and were eventually assaulted by those who were at the scene.
The protesters also broke the Police barricades and entered the GotaGoGama protest site. They attacked huts erected by the Red Cross, St. John Ambulance Service and protesters. A part of the library at the protest site was also destroyed.
The Police fired tear gas, however, it was not enough to stop the violence. It is alleged that the Police did not do enough to prevent the clashes when the pro-Rajapaksa group was heading towards Galle Face.
Enraged by the attacks on peaceful protest sites, people across the country took to the streets and started to attack the buses that were carrying pro-Rajapaksa protesters and property of ruling party politicians.
The people responded to violence spurred by the pro-Rajapaksa group by assaulting them in return. Dozens of Rajapaksa supporters were blocked by the anti-government protesters after they jumped into Beira Lake in Colombo. Rajapaksa ally Mahinda Kahandagama was assaulted by the protesters too.
Just after the reporting of the attack, JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake arrived at GotaGoGama. Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa and a group of SJB MPs also visited the scene, but were chased away by the protesters.
Furthermore, buses that carried the pro-Rajapaksa group to Colombo were blocked and attacked as well.
The ancestral home of the Rajapaksa family in Medamulana, Hambantota was attacked by protesters. The Rajapaksa Museum in Medamulana was set on fire as well.
Houses and vehicles of MPs including Gamini Lokuge, Sanath Nishantha who led a pro-Rajapaksa group to Galle Face, Johnston Fernando, Dr. Ramesh Pathirana, Janaka Tissakuttiarachchi, Shantha Bandara, Kanaka Herath, Nimal Lanza, Anusha Pasquel, Prasanna Ranatunaga, Kanchana Wijesekara, Ali Sabri Raheem and Moratuwa Mayor Saman Nanda Lal who led the group to Galle Face were set on fire by angry protesters. Avenra Gardens Hotel in Negombo was attacked too.
Ruling party MP Amarakeerthi Athukorala and his driver committed suicide after they were involved in a clash with anti-government protesters in Nittambuwa. One youth who was among three persons shot by a group who arrived in the MP’s vehicle, succumbed to the injuries at Wathupitiwala Hospital. Two more people were killed in Weeraketiya in a shooting at the residence of the Chairman of Weeraketiya Pradeshiya Sabha while five others were injured.
A tense situation erupted around Temple Trees in the evening, when a mob tried to break into the premises. The Police fired tear gas several times to disperse the mob. A large number of military personnel were deployed in the area.
Immediately after the clashes, Police curfew was imposed in the Western Province. However, following the escalating riots, general curfew was imposed islandwide from 7:00 p.m. yesterday (9) to 7:00 a.m. today (10).
By Gagani Weerakoon and Methmalie Dissanayake