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‘Aragalaya’ divided between peaceful and violent factions

14 Jul 2022

  • Social media activists trade barbs over Wednesday’s P’ment protest
  • Police commences probe into T-56 in protestors’ hands
  • Apologises for attack on JVP’s Wasantha Samarasinghe
Confusion and disagreements, it is learnt, have emerged among the different groups of the “aragalaya” (struggle) where some support peaceful protests, while others advocate violence as a necessary form of protest, with both sides trading barbs on social media. This was highlighted on Wednesday (13) when a group of protestors at the Polduwa Junction in Battaramulla, near the entry road to Parliament, attempted to breach the Police barricades placed along the road leading to the Parliament complex, and the Police had to use tear gas to disperse them. This protest was not encouraged by certain religious leaders and social media and civil activists engaged in the Aragalaya, who urged the public not to participate in the protest, while asking them to return to Galle Face for their security. Leading “aragalaya” personality Rathidu Senarathna aka “Ratta”, on his social media platform, urged the people not to attend the protest, saying that it was pointless.  “Guys, please come back. The Parliament is not the place where we have to protest now. It is the place where we need our solution. Some people are trying to mislead you all and trying to take advantage of the situation, especially the person called Pathum Kerner. Kerner, you have to take full responsibility for what is happening near the Parliament complex. People got violent because of your Facebook live videos. Don't do this,” Senarathna said. Meanwhile, social media activist Dilan Senanayake also called on the group of protestors to step down and return to Galle Face, claiming that this protest was something created by Kerner for his own purposes. Kerner, a young specialist doctor based in the UK, is considered by some to be the creator of the “GoHomeGota” slogan. Kerner, on his social media platform, had showed clips of the protest near the Parliament complex and provided updates. Some of the peaceful protestors claimed that his videos were promoting violence.  At one stage, he showed a backhoe machine, using which the protestors were attempting to break down the barriers. But witnesses said that the backhoe machine was not brought to the location purposely, and that Kerner was exaggerating the real situation at the protest site. However, Kerner has said that the “aragalaya” is not his personal project but that it is a public project. Meanwhile, anti-Government protestors had taken a Type-56 weapon and two magazines with 60 rounds of ammunition from an Army soldier during the protest near the Parliament. The Police said that the Army soldier and a Police Constable were injured during the public uprising near the Parliament. The Police Constable who is attached to the Kalutara Police Training Academy has been hospitalised with injuries sustained after being attacked by protesters. The Army soldier is reportedly attached to the Wellawaya Army Camp and has also been hospitalised. The Police further said that a complaint has been filed with the Borella Police regarding the firearm and the ammunition that have been confiscated by the protestors. The Welikada and Borella Police have launched investigations to find the missing weapon and the ammunition. More than 42 persons had been injured during clashes between the protestors and security personnel near Parliament. Speaking to The Morning, Catholic priest Jeewantha Peiris said that some people are attempting to sabotage the peaceful protest. “This was a collective effort by everyone, but some people want to make different politics in this campaign. We never wanted to harm public property. We will keep the ‘aragalaya’ only in Galle Face and not anywhere else. We also condemn the attack on National Trade Union Coordination Centre Convenor and Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) member Wasantha Samarasinghe at the Galle Face protest site. This was not done by the peaceful protesters,“ he said. Samagi Jana Balawegaya Opposition MP and former Army Commander Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka has meanwhile appealed to the tri-forces to refrain from implementing the instructions issued by acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe who, Fonseka said, identifies himself as the acting President of Sri Lanka. Issuing a statement, Fonseka said that directives issued by such a person are against the Constitution. Stating that rumours are rife among the anti-Government protestors that an order to shoot has been issued, he said that it poses the risk of a confrontation between the tri-forces and the citizens of the country. Fonseka therefore urged the tri-forces to refrain from using their weapons against innocent and unarmed citizens and to instead use them against corrupt politicians. The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) requested the Acting President and the Security Forces to restore law and order immediately in the country while the Bar Association of Sri Lanka has requested the protestors to hand over the Prime Minister’s office to the Government authorities and to allow room for a peaceful transition of power which the leaders of the country have promised.  

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