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Join hands, reject disharmony, tweets Sri Lanka President amid escalating violence

Faced with violent backlash, Sri Lanka’s embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appealed to his countrymen to unite in the midst of adversity and resist “subversive attempts” to stoke racial discord in society.

Rajapaksa’s remarks, which he broadcast on Twitter, came hours after protesters torched homes, shops and businesses belonging to ruling party lawmakers and called for a new government to take control of the crisis-hit country.

“This is the time for all Sri Lankans to join hands as one, to overcome the economic, social & political challenges. I urge all Sri Lankans to reject the subversive attempts to push you towards racial and religious disharmony. Promoting moderation, toleration and coexistence is vital,” he tweeted.

On Tuesday, Rajapaksa urged peace as anti-government protesters gathered pace and clashes broke out in some places.

“I appeal and urge people to remain calm & stop violence & acts of revenge against citizens, irrespective of political affiliations. All efforts will be made to restore political stability through consensus, within constitutional mandate and to resolve economic crisis,” he had said.

READ | Sri Lanka ex-PM, family take shelter at naval base amid massive protests

Ironically, the president’s calls for calm and moderation were made a day after Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence ordered the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy personnel to open fire on anyone looting public property or causing harm to others.

Nearly 250 people have been injured in the violence in Colombo and other parts of the country. Moreover, eight people were killed when supporters of Mahinda Rajapaksa, who stepped down as prime minister this week, attacked an anti-government protest camp on Monday.

The island nation has been suffering its worst economic crisis in history, with a severe shortage of foreign exchange stalling essential imports, including drugs and fuel. Sri Lankans have blamed the Rajapaksa dynasty for the economic meltdown.

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