Violence erupted in Sri Lanka on May 9 when supporters of former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa attacked peaceful anti-government protesters demanding his ouster due to the country’s worst economic crisis, leading to severe shortages of food, fuel and electricity.
According to Sri Lankan police spokesperson SSP Nihal Thalduar, 1,500 people involved in the violence have been arrested, the online portal NewsFirst.lk reported.
Thaldua added that 152 people had been arrested in the last 24 hours.
On Saturday, Inspector General of Police Chandana D Vikramaratne was questioned by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for her alleged activities that sparked violent clashes that left at least 10 people dead and more than 200 injured.
Last week, Gaul district MP Ramesh Pathirana told parliament that senior West Bengal police DIG in-charge Deshbandhu Tennakun had told President Gotabaya Rajapaksa that Vikramaratne had instructed him not to block the crowd heading towards the cheek to stop anti-government protesters. The online portal Colombo Gazette reported.
Pathirana added that the president had demanded that steps be taken to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control.
According to the Colombo Gazette news portal, following the president’s instructions, police arrived at the scene and fired tear gas and water cannon at the crowd, injuring scores of people and killing at least 10.
The CID had earlier questioned three members of the ruling SLPP parliamentary group for alleged involvement in the clashes.
Two of their colleagues who were arrested earlier have been remanded in custody until May 25.
On Friday, Namal Rajapaksa, son of former minister and former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, was also summoned and his statement was recorded.
Members of the ruling coalition government blamed the opposition Janata Mukti Mukti Peramuna for inciting violence on May 9, which the Marxist party vehemently denied.
The mob destroyed several tents and other structures in Galle Face, Colombo, and attacked some protesters.
Violence saw the burning of several politicians’ homes, including Rajapaksa’s ancestral home in Hambantota.
In the ensuing attack, the property of about 78 government MPs was set on fire.
Sri Lanka has witnessed massive protests against the government of a debt-ridden economy – the worst economic crisis in the country’s history.
The country of 22 million has been struggling with unprecedented economic instability since gaining independence from Britain in 1948.
The crisis is partly caused by a lack of foreign exchange, which means the country cannot afford to import major food and fuel, leading to sharp deficits and very high prices.