Police and Army Commander in two minds over ‘GotaGoGama’

  • Police tell protestors staying out during curfew illegal
  • Shavendra permits protest village, provided it is peaceful

The Police released a special announcement to the protestors at the “GotaGoGama” in Galle Face yesterday (11) evening, stating that assembly in public places is illegal under the existing curfew regulations.

“Under the Public Security Ordinance, since 6 May, there has been emergency law in effect. There has also been a curfew since Monday (9), which will last till tomorrow. Thus, unless there is a letter of permission from a recognised authority, nobody can stay in public spaces, including roads, beaches, or parks. Thus, violating curfew regulations is a wrongdoing,” said the announcement, which was broadcasted using the Presidential Secretariat’s loudspeakers yesterday. 

However, Army Commander and Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Shavendra Silva said yesterday to the media that “as long as the protestors at ‘GotaGoGama’ are peaceful, there will be no problem”.

“People are in a state of unrest due to the economic problems. The Army did not do anything while there were peaceful protests. The Army only got involved after Monday. Some tried to make it violent and some are trying to escalate it. However, according to the law and the Constitution, the tri-forces will protect the public. We must protect this country. People should respect a curfew. We have never removed the protestors at ‘GotaGoGama’ so far. We do not make a problem for the peaceful people who are there. As long as they are peaceful, there will be no problem,” said Gen. Silva.

On Monday, supporters of then-Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa gathered at the Temple Trees, where they were heard chanting loudly for him not to resign. They were addressed by Rajapaksa, inside the Temple Trees. Following this, the crowd went and assaulted the protestors outside the Temple Trees, at “MynaGoGama”, where they were engaged in a days-long struggle, demanding his resignation.

The crowd then moved towards “GotaGoGama”, where they assaulted anti-Government protestors, demolishing and setting fire to many temporary structures near the Galle Face Green, which belonged to the protestors. Following this, “GotaGoGama” was rebuilt at the Galle Face Green, with the struggle demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa continuing. The homes of several MPs have been burnt around the island in retaliatory attacks, including the Medamulana residence that the Rajapaksa family has named as their ancestral home in Hambantota.

Calls to arrest Mahinda Rajapaksa and other Government Members who played a role in inciting such violence have been growing, while questions have been raised about the inaction of the Police and the tri-forces, who did not prevent the pro-Rajapaksa supporters from moving towards “GotaGoGama”.

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