Curfew in Sri Lanka: Shoot-on-sight ordered
Sri Lanka's defence ministry yesterday ordered troops to shoot on sight people involved in looting or damaging property, a day after mobs targeted the homes of ruling-party politicians.
"Security forces have been ordered to shoot on sight anyone looting public property or causing harm to life," the ministry said.
The order came after the government gave emergency powers to its military and police to detain people without warrants, as Monday's violence left eight people dead.
Tens of thousands of army, navy and air force personnel were deployed to patrol tense streets of the capital Colombo and elsewhere.
But hundreds of protesters continued rallying for the president to quit, including at the "Gota Go Gama" tent village that was attacked by ruling party supporters yesterday.
"Now the whole island is supporting us," said Lahiru Fernando, 36, who has been camped at the anti-government protest site for weeks. "They kicked the wrong generation."
Speaking to AFP, protester Chamal Polwattage said: "More people are coming to the demonstration site after the emergency and curfews.
"People are angry about the attacks launched against us yesterday [Monday]. Despite the curfew since yesterday [Monday] afternoon, we have a lot of volunteers bringing food and water for us," the 25-year-old said.
"We will not go until the president goes," he added.
A mob assaulted a top police officer and torched his vehicle near the prime minister's official residence in the capital Colombo yesterday.
In another sign of rapidly deteriorating security, vigilante groups blocked the main road to Colombo's airport and stopped all traffic to check for any Rajapaksa loyalists trying to leave the island, witnesses said.
Thousands of angry protesters stormed Mahinda's official residence on Monday night, and the former premier had to be rescued in a pre-dawn military operation yesterday, firing tear gas and warning shots.
Mahinda and his family have taken shelter at a naval base in Trincomalee in the north-east part of the island nation, sources told NDTV.
Despite the attack on his residence, Mahinda's son Namal told AFP that his father would not flee, describing the surge of national anger against his family as a "bad patch".
Protesters and a key trade group yesterday called for a new government to take control of the crisis-hit country as the president called for calm.
Sri Lanka has been suffering its worst economic crisis in history, with a severe shortage of foreign exchange stalling the essential of imports, including drugs and fuel.
For months, its tottering economy has been largely supported by India, which has provided assistance of more than $3.5 billion as the country began much-delayed talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a rescue package and also sought help from China.
China and India have long jostled for influence over Sri Lanka, a strategically-located island located off the southern tip of India with a population of 22 million people, reports Reuters.
Some experts said that if the president decides to step down in the face of growing pressure, the constitution outlines provisions for parliament to vote in a new leader.
"So, there will not be a power vacuum. There are also provisions for parliamentarians to appoint an interim government," said Bhavani Fonseka, a senior researcher at the Centre for Policy Alternatives think tank.
The Joint Apparel Association Forum, which represents the Sri Lanka's economically vital apparel industry, appealed for political stability in Sri Lanka.
"It is critical that a new government be appointed urgently to fill the current political vacuum," the forum said in a statement.
The United Nations condemned the escalating violence in the island nation, with human rights chief Michelle Bachelet calling on the authorities to prevent further unrest.
"I am deeply troubled by the escalation of violence in Sri Lanka after supporters of the prime minister attacked peaceful protesters in Colombo yesterday May 9 and the subsequent mob violence against members of the ruling party," Bachelet said in a statement yesterday.