Sri Lanka’s unprecedented anti-government protests that removed the influential Rajapaksa family from power for mishandling the country’s worst economic crisis formally ended after 123 days on Tuesday, even as the demonstrators vowed that their campaign for a ”system change” continue.
The protesters left the main anti-government protest camp at Galle Face promenade where they had been staging sit-ins since April 9, branding it as the ‘Gota go home village’ (Rajapaksa go home).
The protesters came under pressure to quit the site after former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was elected as the new president. After the appointment of Wickremesinghe as Rajapaksa’s successor, the protesters were forcibly evicted from the presidential secretariat and the gate on Jul 22, drawing widespread international condemnation.
A spate of arrests of activists have raised concern with the main Opposition and rights groups who have labelled the arrests as “state repression”.
The government defended the arrests, saying all those who were arrested either defied court orders or had forcibly entered the state buildings.
The police last week asked the protesters to leave the Galle Face site by August 5, but they defied the order and filed writ applications in the Appeal Court, claiming their right to protest.
However, when the protesters quit the Galle Face site it was announced that they had withdrawn the writ applications. The street protests already culminated last month.
Protesters in March began demonstrating against the powerful Rajapaksa family and demanded the resignation of the entire Rajapaksa family.
The massive protests led to the resignation of then-Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on May 9, and his brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled the country to the Maldives on July 13 and resigned the following day from Singapore after demonstrators stormed his official home and occupied several key government buildings.