Sri Lanka’s Parliament is set to convene on Wednesday, July 27 for the first session under President Ranil Wickremesinghe. The House is scheduled to approve the state of emergency imposed over a week ago on July 18.
This will also be the first session since the appointment of Dinesh Gunawardena as Prime Minister, along with his 18-member cabinet. Many of the ministers were part of the earlier cabinet during the time of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was overthrown following the mass uprising of July 9.
According to cabinet spokesperson, a revised budget for the remaining year is set to be presented in the parliament next month. The government is expected to raise taxes and cut capital expenditure. These are part of negotiations for a bailout program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Meanwhile, fresh protests took place on Monday to demand justice for the victims of the government’s brutal crackdown on the Galle Face protest site that took place less than 24 hours after Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as the eighth executive president of Sri Lanka.
In the early hours of Friday, July 22 the armed forces launched an assault on protestors at the Galle Face site in Colombo, which had become the epicenter of the Aragalaya or the months-long protest against the Rajapaksa regime. The protests forced the resignation of then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in May and the eventual deposition of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. In the subsequent election, Ranil Wickremesinghe was elected president.
At least 50 people were injured in the attack on Friday. At least nine of the roughly 100 protestors who were present near the adjoining Presidential Secretariat at the time of the attack were arrested and were later released on bail. Many of the tents near the Secretariat were also torn down.
''සර්..සර්…සුද්ද කළා සර්..සුද්ද කළා.''
BBC බව දැන දැනත් මාධ්යවේදීන් දෙදෙනෙකුටත් ප්රහාරයක් pic.twitter.com/rS0biQisvN
— BBC News Sinhala (@bbcsinhala) July 22, 2022
— Sri Lanka Tweet 🇱🇰 💉 (@SriLankaTweet) July 22, 2022
Sri Lankan Military has taken over some parts of the Galle Face protest site forcibly removing protesters pic.twitter.com/NL4MtblMCt
— NewsWire 🇱🇰 (@NewsWireLK) July 21, 2022
No media personnel or lawyers were allowed entry into the area while the attack carried on as all routes to the site were blocked by the security forces.
On July 21, a day before the attacks on protestors, an official gazette was issued by President Wickremesinghe under the Public Security Ordinance calling on armed forces personnel to maintain “public order” from Friday onwards in multiple areas of the country.
Following Friday’s attack, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) called the incident “a total violation of the fundamental rights of the people by the actions of the Executive.”
The attack on peaceful protestors, who are on the streets to protest the worst economic crisis Sri Lanka has seen in decades, also invited strong reactions from several quarters including the UN and several international rights groups.
Sri Lanka: The new Sri Lankan President must immediately stop the shameful, brutal assault on peaceful protestors, @amnesty said today after the military carried out a pre-dawn attack on the peaceful protest site outside the Presidential Secretariat. https://t.co/9RYtphBLgC
— Amnesty International South Asia (@amnestysasia) July 22, 2022
Shortly after the attacks on protestors and the destruction of their tents by the military, President Ranil Wickremesinghe, while speaking to diplomats on July 24, said that non-violent protests “will be allowed to continue” and reaffirmed his commitment to upholding the right to assemble peacefully.
Meanwhile, rights group International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) has submitted a criminal complaint to the Attorney General of Singapore, where Gotabaya Rajapaksa is currently staying after fleeing Sri Lanka following mass protests against his regime. The ITJP complaint has requested his immediate arrest over alleged war crimes committed during the Sri Lankan civil war when he was the Secretary to the Ministry of Defense.
Wickremesinghe will face the challenge of tackling the economic crisis the island nation faces. Fuel shortages continue as national inflation spiked to 58.9 percent in June 2022. Sri Lanka’s government debt has surged to around 126 percent of gross domestic product(GDP) in the first quarter of 2022, official data shows.