Catholic bishops have warned that suppression of human rights will exacerbate mass unrest and damage country’s image
Christian priests walk through the tents installed by the demonstrators near Presidential Secretariat in Colombo on July 24, 2022. (Photo: Arun Sankar/ AFP)
Sri Lankan bishops have criticized the attack by security forces on unarmed protestors and media people while demolishing the main anti-government protest camp in Colombo.
A joint operation by the military, police and special forces forcefully removed protestors sleeping inside tents at the peaceful protest site outside the Presidential Secretariat in the early hours of Friday.
Protestors were beaten and assaulted while media, lawyers and activists were prevented from reaching the site. More than 50 were injured and 9 people have been arrested, according to reports.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka (CBCSL) in a statement on July 23 strongly condemned the attack on unarmed civilian protestors and journalists, saying the suppression of human rights “will further exacerbate mass unrest and damage the image of the country in the international community.”
The prelates urged President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was sworn in a day earlier, on July 21, to safeguard the legitimate and democratic rights of every citizen enshrined in the constitution of the country.
The CBCSL has demanded an impartial and transparent investigation into the attack and bring to book all those who are responsible for it.
The Free Media Movement (FMM) also strongly condemned inhumane and atrocious attacks using the security forces.
“The journalists who were present in the area of the protest site stated that the military brutally attacked the people including clergy, women and even disabled people. As a result, a large number of people have been injured in the attacks, and the security forces have even obstructed the people from taking the injured,” said Lasantha De Silva, convener of the FMM.
Local and international journalists, as well as social media activists who reported the unfolding events, were attacked and their camera equipment damaged, he said.
Pointing out that the security forces had moved in despite the announcement by the activists that they would be vacating the protest site the next day, De Silva said it was “an appalling act that further aggravates the adverse situation faced by Sri Lanka.”
Many embassies and international organizations condemned the attack.
Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said that the action sends a dangerous message to the Sri Lankan people that the new government intends to act through brute force rather than the rule of law.
“It is shameful that the new government resorted to such violent tactics within hours of coming to power,” said Kyle Ward, Amnesty International’s deputy secretary general.