President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday lauded the Sri Lankan Army for protecting Parliament when anti-government protestors tried to take control of the complex during the massive uprising last month, saying their ”timely intervention” preserved the constitution, democracy and sovereignty of the country.
Wickremesinghe, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, made his first formal visit to the Army Headquarters at Sri Jayawardenepura after he assumed the office following the ouster of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Wickremesinghe was welcomed by Lieutenant General Vikum Liyanage, Commander of the Army and met a representative gathering of the Army troops who performed their duties on July 13, when a mob tried to take control of the Parliament complex amidst the unprecedented anti-government protests. Army soldiers on duty while trying to prevent their entry sustained injuries and some of them had to be admitted to hospitals.
Addressing the gathering, Wickremesinghe appreciated ”their timely intervention at the expense of their own lives and gave away certificates of appreciation to them. He said ”their actions that day preserved the constitution, democracy and sovereignty of the country”. Protesters began demonstrating against the Rajapaksa family in March and demanded the resignation of the entire Rajapaksa family, leading to the resignation of then-Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on May 9, and his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled the country to the Maldives on July 13 and resigned the following day from Singapore. “There was a party leaders meeting on the day protestors surrounded Parliament. The Speaker had to call off that meeting. It is easy to take over the judiciary and stop all court cases. Legislature is the most important out of the three branches of government. There was no place for the acting President to function, the Temple Trees was also taken over by the protesters and also the Prime Minister’s office. If they took over Parliament under these circumstances, the country would have been without a government. Therefore I ordered the security forces to safeguard Parliament. They were able to do it without shooting at any of the protesters. I thank the security forces for this job,” he said. After the resignation of Rajapaksa and the appointment of his successor Wickremesinghe, the protesters were forcibly evicted from the presidential secretariat and the gate on July 22, drawing widespread international condemnation. According to the Human Rights Watch group’s statement, Sri Lankan security forces on July 22, Friday, forcibly dispersed people at a peaceful protest site near President’s Secretariat, assaulted them leaving more than 50 persons injured.