Sri Lanka president’s office to reopen after crackdown

Sri Lanka’s besieged presidential office will reopen on Monday, police said, days after anti-government demonstrators were flushed out in a military crackdown that triggered international condemnation.

The colonial-era building was occupied earlier this month by protesters
angered by the island nation’s unprecedented economic crisis.

Soldiers rescued then-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa from his nearby residence
before it was overrun by an angry crowd the same day, with the leader
eventually fleeing to Singapore and resigning.

Troops armed with batons and automatic weapons cleared the presidential
secretariat shortly after midnight Friday on the orders of Rajapaksa’s
successor, Ranil Wickremesinghe.

At least 48 people were wounded and nine arrested in the operation, during
which security forces tore down tents set up by protesters outside the
complex earlier this year.

“The office is ready for reopening from Monday,” a police official told AFP
on Sunday, adding that forensics experts had visited the office to gather
evidence of damage by protesters.

“The siege of the secretariat, which lasted since May 9, has now been

Western governments, the United Nations and human rights groups have
condemned Wickremesinghe for using violence against unarmed protesters who
had announced their intention to vacate the site later on Friday.

Police spokesman Nihal Talduwa said protesters were free to continue their
demonstrations at a designated site near the presidential office.

“They can remain at the official protest site. The government may even open a
few more places for demonstrators in the city,” Talduwa said Sunday.

The military operation to clear the secretariat building and its immediate
surroundings came less than 24 hours after Wickremesinghe was sworn in and
just before a new cabinet was appointed.

Wickremesinghe was elected by legislators on Wednesday to replace Rajapaksa,
who fled to Singapore and resigned after demonstrators chased him from his

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