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Sri Lankan President urges people to stop ‘acts of revenge’ as death toll in violence rises to 8

Embattled Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Tuesday urged people to stop “violence and acts of revenge” against fellow citizens and vowed to address the political and economic crisis facing the nation, even as the death toll rose to eight in the unprecedented violence that erupted after supporters of former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa attacked anti-government protesters here.

Nearly 250 people have also been injured in the violence in Colombo and other parts of the country. A curfew is in force across the island nation after mobs burned down the ancestral home belonging to the ruling Rajapaksa family amid mounting anger at the worst economic crisis. Though Mahinda Rajapaksa has quit as prime minister, this has failed to bring calm.

“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 & to resolve economic crisis,” President Gotabaya tweeted in his first comments since the outbreak of the violence that saw arson attacks on the homes of several former ministers and politicians.

Sri Lanka’s Attorney General on Tuesday asked the police chief to conduct an urgent and full-fledged investigation into the violent clashes between anti- and pro-government protesters in the country.

Anti-government protesters have also set up a checkpoint on the road leading to the Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo to prevent the Rajapaksa family loyalists from fleeing the country.

Mahinda, 76, resigned as prime minister on Monday amid unprecedented economic turmoil, hours after his supporters attacked anti-government protesters, prompting authorities to impose a nationwide curfew and deploy Army troops in the capital. The attack triggered widespread violence against pro-Rajapaksa politicians.

On Monday, protesters attacked the ancestral home of the Rajapaksas in Hambantota, the houses of 14 former ministers, 18 lawmakers, including former Deputy Speaker, and leaders loyal to the Rajapaksa family.

Video footage showed the ancestral house of the Rajapaksa family in Medamulana in Hambantota city was burning.

Prime Minister Mahinda’s House in Kurunegala was also set on fire by protesters, while a mob also destroyed DA Rajapaksa Memorial – constructed in the memory of the father of Mahinda and Gotabaya – in Medamulana, Hambantota.

Chairman of the Imaduwa Pradeshiya Sabha A V Sarath Kumara died following an attack on his residence on Monday. Kumara, 63, was admitted to the hospital due to a heart condition following the attack.

One person was killed following an attack on a popular hotel in Negombo. Multiple luxury cars worth millions of rupees were completely destroyed.

SLPP Member of Parliament Amarakeerthi Athukorala and his security guard died in Nittambuwa on Monday.

Eye-witnesses said that the people who had come with the Member of Parliament to Nittambuwa shot at a group of people protesting against the attack on the peaceful protesters in front of the Temple Trees and the President’s Office. A 27-year-old male died in the shooting incident.

Two people were killed in a shooting that took place at the Weeraketiya Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman’s residence on Monday night.

A person succumbed to his injuries at the hospital in Colombo.

Several properties of ministers and lawmakers of the ruling coalition were destroyed by the protesters.

Protesters also attacked the house of Badulla District parliamentarian Tissa Kuttiarachch and later set it on fire.

The house of Puttalam MP Santha Nishantha was completely destroyed due to an arson attack.

There have been protests over soaring prices and power cuts since last month. Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since gaining independence from Britain in 1948.

The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.

Thousands of demonstrators have hit the streets across Sri Lanka since April 9 seeking the resignation of President Gotabaya and his brother Mahinda, as the government ran out of money for vital imports; prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed and there are acute shortages in fuel, medicines and electricity supply.

In a special Cabinet meeting on Friday, President Gotabaya declared a state of emergency with effect from Friday midnight. This is the second time that an emergency was declared in Sri Lanka in just over a month as the island nation was in the grip of the worst economic crisis.

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

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