army: the Sri Lankan army is committed to protecting the Constitution; do not interfere with peaceful anti-government protests

COLOMBO: In an unusual move, the Sri Lankan military vowed on Saturday to respect the Constitution and not interfere with ongoing anti-government protests across the island nation over the unprecedented economic crisis that has led to severe shortages food, soaring prices and power cuts.
Referring to speculation on social media that the military could be used by the embattled government of Gotabaya Rajapaksa to launch a crackdown on the protest near the presidential secretariat, the Sri Lankan military said it would not have not resort to violence to quell anti-government protests that entered the eighth day on Saturday.
The press release specifies that the army will only intervene if the police “call us to help them”.
“The troops, as everyone has witnessed over the past few days, have not interfered in any way with any of these peaceful protesters or organizations, nor have they acted against the interests of the state as disciplined members of a organization that has brought peace to this country through immense and priceless sacrifices,” the statement said.
The military also dismissed as “completely false, fabricated and baseless” speculation, particularly on social media, that it was currently undergoing training to assault protesters.
The statement urged the public not to be “provoked or misled by these planned machinations and treacherous moves, as the military is assuredly committed to protecting the state and its people around the clock, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution”.
“The military very strongly and categorically denies these sinister maneuvers and categorically rejects these attempts, intended to discredit this organization and simultaneously urge the conscious and sensible citizens of this country to place their full trust in the troops as he has has been done in the past because current serving troops remain more trained, professionally qualified and well-suited to meet any security challenge, in this scenario, only if the police call us to assist them,” the statement read.
Sri Lanka is currently in the throes of the worst economic crisis since gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1948. Sri Lanka’s foreign currency reserves have virtually run out. This means that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.
The army’s unusual statement came after former army commander Sarath Fonseka said troops must not obey illegal orders involving a crackdown on protesters.
Emphasizing that the army must rethink “before acting on illegal orders”, Fonseka, in an address to the army commander, General Shavendra Silva and to Kamal Gunaratne, a senior official of the Ministry of Defense, had said that the troops were not to obey any illegal order.
Fonseka, who was promoted to field marshal for commanding the army to victory over the LTTE in 2009, had both Silva and Gunaratne under him.
Anti-government protesters are demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa along with the entire Rajapaksa family following the mishandling of the ongoing economic crisis which has led the nation to financial paralysis.
The Colombo Stock Exchange will remain temporarily closed for a week from Monday to provide investors with the opportunity to have “greater clarity and understanding” of current economic conditions in crisis-ridden Sri Lanka, which would help them “take informed investment decisions,” he added. was announced on Saturday.
“The stock market will remain temporarily closed for a period of five business days from April 18, 2022,” the Securities and Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka (SEC) said in a statement.
Meanwhile, President Rajapaksa held several rounds of talks with senior officials on topical issues on Saturday, the president’s media division said.
Finance Minister Ali Sabry, Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe, Minister of State Shehan Semasinghe, President’s Secretary Gamini Senarath, President’s Senior Adviser Lalith Weeratunga and Ministry of Finance Secretary KMM Siriwardena attended at the first discussion.
Another discussion took place with officials from the ministries of finance, energy and health, he added.
Sri Lanka’s central bank has announced that it will have to stop repaying its huge foreign debt burden because it is so short of foreign currency.
The government is now desperately seeking a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.
With the acute shortage of foreign exchange, a $500 million Indian credit line for fuel imports has provided a lifeline to the island nation.
India recently announced a $1 billion line of credit to Sri Lanka as part of its financial assistance to the country to tackle the economic crisis after a previous $500 billion line of credit. in February to help him buy petroleum products.
President Rajapaksa has defended his government’s actions, saying the currency crisis was not his fault and the economic downturn was largely due to the pandemic, the island nation’s tourism revenue and remittances decreasing incoming.

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