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Sri Lankan President’s office to reopen after raid

#Sri #Lankan #Presidents #office #reopen #raid

Sri Lanka’s besieged presidential office will reopen on Monday, police said, days after anti-government protesters were driven out in a military crackdown that sparked international condemnations.

Widespread public anger over the island’s unprecedented economic crisis led protesters to storm and occupy the colonial-era building earlier this month.

Soldiers were forced to rescue then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa from his nearby residence the same day, with the leader fleeing to Singapore and resigning days later.

Under the orders of Rajapaksa’s successor, Ranil Wickremesinghe, troops armed with batons and automatic weapons cleaned the 92-year-old president’s secretariat in a dawn raid.

At least 48 people were injured and nine arrested in the operation, which saw security forces tear down tents that had been erected outside the complex by protesters since April.

“The office is ready to reopen from Monday,” said a police officer Sunday, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

He told AFP that forensic scientists visited the office to collect evidence of damage caused by protesters.

“The siege on the Secretariat that has lasted since May 9 has now been lifted.”

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

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

“You can stay at the official protest site. The government might even open a few more places for protesters in the city,” Talduwa said on Sunday.

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

Wickremesinghe was elected by lawmakers on Wednesday to replace Rajapaksa, who fled to the neighboring Maldives on a military plane and then traveled to Singapore, from where he tendered his resignation.

– fuel crisis –

Sri Lanka’s 22 million residents have also endured months of power outages, record inflation and shortages of food, fuel and petrol.

Her government is officially bankrupt after defaulting on its $51 billion foreign debt and is currently in bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund.

The economic crisis that has fueled the protest campaign shows no sign of easing, but the government announced on Sunday it would reopen schools that had been closed for nearly a month.

The Department of Education said students and teachers are being asked to return to school for just three days a week as transportation is still hampered by a national fuel shortage.

Miles-long lines of motorists waiting to fill up were seen across the country on Sunday despite the government’s introduction of a rationing system.

New President Wickremesinghe has announced he will present a new budget for the remainder of the year in August as previous revenue and expenditure estimates were unrealistic.

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