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    Mahinda Rajapaksa's reign as Sri Lanka PM ends amid violence; island under curfew

    Mahinda Rajapaksa's reign as Sri Lanka PM ends amid violence; island under curfew

    Mahinda Rajapaksa's reign as Sri Lanka PM ends amid violence; island under curfew
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    By CNBCTV18.com  IST (Updated)

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    As the country continues to reel under its worst economic crisis, pro- and anti-Rajapaksa groups clashed following reports of Mahinda Rajapaksa's resignation, leaving 23 injured. Mahinda’s younger brother Gotabaya remains at the helm as the president.

    Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned from his post on Monday, IndiaToday.in reported, citing local media reports. He previously served as prime minister of Sri Lanka from 2004 to 2005. He served as President of Sri Lanka from 2005 to 2015

    Prior to his resignation, Sri Lankan authorities imposed a nationwide curfew and  the Army was deployed in the capital after pro-government groups attacked anti-government protesters, leaving at least 23 people injured.

    The violence had occurred following reports of Mahinda Rajapaksa's possible resignation, as pressure mounted on the embattled government — led by his younger brother and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa — to form an interim administration amid the worst economic crisis the island is facing.

    The curfew was imposed across the island with immediate effect until further notice, a police spokesperson was quoted by the local media. A military contingent was deployed at the protest site to assist law enforcement.

    "While emotions are running high in #lka, I urge our general public to exercise restraint & remember that violence only begets violence. The economic crisis we're in needs an economic solution which this administration is committed to resolving," Mahinda Rajapaksa had tweeted on May 9, following the violence.

    Descent into chaos

    Earlier in the day, a group of supporters of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa attacked the protesters outside the 'MainaGoGama,' a protest site near Temple Trees, the official residence of the Prime Minister, Daily Mirror, an online news platform, reported.

    The tents opposite Temple Trees were dismantled by a mob, Lanka First, a leading news network, reported. Police used water cannons to disperse the unruly Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) protestors who are at the Galle Face green protest site, Hiru News website reported.

    At least 23 people were injured in the violence. The police formed a human chain to prevent the protesters from entering GotaGoGama.

    However, the mob pushed their way past the police human chain and attacked GotaGoGama. A military contingent was deployed to the protest site to assist law enforcement.

    Opposition leader of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya, Sajith Premadasa visited the GotaGoGama protest site to assess the situation, accusing Mahinda Rajapaksa of instigating his supporters.

    The 'MainaGoGama' protest site was set up demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Peaceful protesters had been camping here for 31 days. Hundreds of supporters of the Prime Minister were brought in buses while some others marched to the Temple Trees to show support to the premier against the call for his resignation, the Colombo Page news portal reported.

    The demonstrators had insisted that Rajapaksa remain in office . The local government representatives and parliamentarians supporting the premier also arrived at the Temple Trees. The Bar Association of Sri Lanka called for immediate action to prevent protesters from being attacked.

    The lawyers' body said it has received reports of a gang of persons armed with poles and clubs marching from Temple Trees towards Galle Face. They have attacked anti-government protesters opposite Temple Trees. "There will be grave repercussions by the inaction of the government and the police to deal with this situation," it said in a statement.

    State of emergency

    In a special Cabinet meeting on May 6, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency with effect from May 6 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. Sri Lanka is currently in the throes of unprecedented economic turmoil since its independence from Britain in 1948.

    The crisis was caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which means 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, as the government ran out of money for vital imports; prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed and there are acute shortages of fuel, medicines and electricity supply.

    With PTI inputs

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