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Sri Lankans criticises a Wednesday night speech by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in which he ignored calls to resign and vowed to restore order.

Sri Lankans criticises a Wednesday night speech by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in which he ignored calls to resign and vowed to restore order.

Sri Lankans
Sri Lankans criticises a Wednesday night speech by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in which he ignored calls to resign and vowed to restore order.—

In his first national address since protests began last month, he offered to cede some of the presidency’s power to parliament, but set no timetable.

Sri Lankans who have been calling for him to resign over an unprecedented economic crisis were unimpressed.

Many said the speech failed to address the real issues.

“Where were you for the last 30 days? People don’t have medicine, people don’t have food, the entire country’s at a standstill,” Kavindya Thennakoon, a protester in Colombo, told the BBC.

“The reforms he’s suggesting are not what we need. What we need right now is for [the president] to resign from office… It baffles my mind that Gotabaya Rajapaksa doesn’t understand that.”

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On social media, many referred to the resignation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa – the president’s brother – earlier this week as they called for him to quit too. “One down. One more to kick out,” read one tweet on Thursday morning.

“You should have advised your ministers and your own brother Mahinda against influencing their goons to initiate a wave of terror. If not for their stupidity, Sri Lanka would not have experienced a wave of violence,” another tweet read.

Weeks of peaceful protests against the government turned violent on Monday, after supporters of Mahinda Rajapaksa attacked anti-government demonstrators and destroyed two protest sites where thousands had congregated.

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Though the older Rajapaksa brother quit as PM shortly after, angry mobs have since been targeting property belonging to the family and other politicians supporting them.

Violence was reported on both Monday and Tuesday nights. Shops near Colombo were torched, as well as a resort owned by one of Mahinda’s sons.

The two-time former president is now holed up in a naval base in the north-east of the country for his own safety, the military has confirmed.

Security forces are deployed across Sri Lanka with orders to shoot looters on sight.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa made no mention of the role of pro-government supporters in triggering the violence, only condemning the actions of the mobs and vowing to bring down the full force of the law against them.

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A nationwide curfew that shut shops, businesses and offices was lifted for a few hours on Thursday morning, but will be reimposed in the afternoon.

The BBC’s Anbarasan Ethirajan, in Colombo, reports that residents started lining up outside petrol stations even before the curfew was lifted. More vehicles could be seen on the roads as people rushed out to buy essentials.

 

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