Sri Lankan university teachers demand the resignation of Rajapaksa and the Inspector General of Police

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Sri Lankan police have fired tear gas and water cannon against protesters at Peradeniya University

The Federation of University Teachers’ Association (FUTA) has demanded the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) C.D. Wickremaratne, over their failure to prevent indiscriminate, unprovoked attacks on the public campaigning against the government.

FUTA has alleged that former Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa and his office were complicit in Monday’s violence, directed at those camping in front of Temple Trees and Galle Face Green.

The outfit urged the public to desist from violence.

The following is the text of the statement issued by Rohan Laksiri, General Secretary, FUTA: ‘We unequivocally condemn the attack on peaceful protesters at the Galle Face Green and near the Temple Trees on the 9th of May 2022.

‘We are of the view that the now resigned Prime Minister Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa and his office was complicit in this violence.

‘The individuals and groups who attacked the peaceful protesters were hosted at the Temple Trees, official residence of the Prime Minister, just before they proceeded towards Galle Face, with the intention to confront those at Galle Face Green.

‘Although he has now rendered his resignation, we demand that Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa should explain to the People, whom he was duty bound to serve and protect, why this group of people were invited and hosted by him on Monday 9th May at Temple Trees.

‘This reception stands in stark contrast to the outright hostility shown towards peaceful protesters outside Temple Trees who have been demanding his resignation.

‘You owe it to the people to name the individuals who organised the meeting at Temple Trees, who approved the use of the hall for this purpose and facilitated the meeting.

‘Social and mass media reports identify some cabinet ministers, parliamentarians and members of the local government institutions being present at this meeting and in the mob that later attacked the protesters.

‘The FUTA calls upon the President and the Inspector General of Police also to resign immediately in recognition of their failure to prevent this violence.

‘The FUTA demands that immediate legal action must be taken against those who have instigated violence, irrespective of their social or political status.

‘We also call upon the authorities to conduct an impartial investigation to look into the behaviour of the police and the armed forces during the incident.

‘We thank the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and the Sri Lanka Bar Association for acting independently and fulfilling its mandate by condemning the actions of our public officials.

‘We call upon the police, the armed forces, the judiciary and all other public servants to fulfil their duty and act impartially and resist any force that may be placed on any of them to give into undue political pressure.

‘Sri Lanka is once again at a breaking point.

‘We, Sri Lankans, are once again suffering material and emotional hardship due to the deliberate acts of mal-governance of our elected representatives.

‘We note that this is a catastrophic event in a long series of events that we have experienced in this island nation.

‘Over the last several weeks, people from all walks of life have come together to ask for accountability, for constitutional government and for a system change.

‘In response, this government has declared a state of emergency, made a mockery of parliamentary process and has sought to, for all intents and purposes, continue with their business as usual.

‘Today, public institutions and their processes are being held hostage to the will of a few in government.

‘We condemn this state capture and demand that the president heed the call of the people, desist from further destroying the democratic fabric of Sri Lanka.

‘We condemn all and any attempt by the government to absolve itself from responsibility in this regard.

‘Furthermore, the FUTA urges the general public to act responsibly and sensibly, refraining from all sorts of violence that could destroy lives, public and private properties etc. as such acts of violence could undermine the people’s struggle.’

A large number of trade unions have declared that they will hold countrywide protests against the goon attacks on peaceful protesters near Temple Trees and at the Galle Face Green.

Trade union activist Saman Rathnapriya said that more than 1,000 unions representing health, ports, education, and other key service sectors had pledged their support for the union action.

Rathnapriya said the workers would stage demonstrations at their workplaces across the country.

At the end of the week, unions will march to parliament, demanding President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s removal and the formation of a new government.

Ravi Kumudesh of the Collective of Trade Unions and Mass Organisations said that trade unions of the health sector would go on strike from midnight on Tuesday.

The Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) too announced that they would resort to trade union action.

GMOA’s Executive Committee will decide on union action at an Emergency General Meeting.

Meanwhile, the trade unions of the railway department too said they would withdraw from duties from midnight on Monday.

Sri Lanka Immigration and Emigration Officers Association (SLIEOA) stated on Tuesday that they would wear black armbands in protest against the attacks on peaceful protesters.

Several public and private sector trade unions were continuing their strike for the third day on Wednesday demanding the resignation of the President.

Joint-convener of the Trade Union Coordinating Centre Wasantha Samarasinghe stated that members of trade unions in many sectors such as health, ports, and electricity are participating in the strike.

Joint-convener of the Trade Union Coordinating Centre Ravi Kumudesh stated that health professionals are also supporting the strike.

The trade union action initiated by the Sri Lanka Administrative Officers’ Association is still active.

Meanwhile, the Principals’ Association also stated that they would go on strike on Tuesday May 11th.

There was a second night of arson attacks on Tuesday, with properties damaged in the town of Negombo, near the capital, Colombo.

A massive crowd of workers and youth torched a luxury holiday resort owned by the son of the former Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Government supporters attacked protesters who want President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to quit.

Eight people have since died.

More than 200 are believed to have been injured in the clashes.

Sri Lanka has already seen weeks of protests over its dire financial situation, which has caused the Sri Lankan rupee to plunge, provoking severe food and fuel shortages.

More than 50 houses belonging to politicians have been burnt to the ground while a controversial museum dedicated to the Rajapaksa family was also burnt down in the country’s south.

Shops, businesses and offices were shut for a third day on Wednesday under a nationwide curfew in place until Thursday morning.

A meeting between Sri Lanka’s political party leaders was moved online over security concerns.

In Sri Lanka, there are 2,074 registered trade unions, of which 54.5 per cent are in the public sector, 27.5 per cent in public corporations and 18 per cent in the private sector.