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Sri Lanka court bans former PM Mahinda Rajapaksa, allies from leaving country

They Were Barred From Travelling Overseas Due To The Investigations Taking Place On The Attacks On The GotaGoGama And MynaGoGama Peaceful Protest Sites

Former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. File. | Photo Credit: Reuters

A Sri Lankan court on May 12 imposed a ban on overseas travel on former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, his son and MP Namal Rajapaksa, and 15 others in view of investigations against them for the attack on peaceful anti-government protesters in Colombo this week.

The Fort Magistrate’s Court asked them to surrender their passports due to the investigations taking place on the attacks on the GotaGoGama and MynaGoGama peaceful protest sites on May 9. At least nine people were killed and over 300 others injured in the violence.

The magisterial order came as a response to a request by the police’s criminal investigation division which is conducting the investigations into Monday's violence. The court issued the bans on 13 legislators representing the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), including Johnston Fernando, Sanath Nishantha, Pavithra Wanniarachchi, C B Ratnayake, and Sanjeewa Edirimanne.

Senior Deputy Inspector General (SDIG) of the Western Province Deshabandu Tennakoon is also on the list of people who need to remain in the country for investigations into the violence.

The group was accused of brutally assaulting protesters opposite Mr. Rajapaksa’s residence and near the secretariat of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Mr. Rajapaksa, in a show of political strength, rallied his grassroots supporters to force him not to resign his position as the Prime Minister. By then the pressure had mounted on him from within the ruling coalition to resign to make way for the formation of an interim all-party government.

He made a passionate speech and the charged-up supporters attacked the protesters who had been for weeks demanding the resignation of the Rajapaksas, blaming them for the country's worst economic crisis.

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A number of government MPs’ homes and offices were torched by enraged mobs around the country on May 9 and May 10, in a wave of spontaneous violence that was triggered by the attack on anti-government protestors by supporters of Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Supporters of Mahinda Rajapaksa destroy tents belonging to anti-government demonstrators, during a clash between
Supporters of Mahinda Rajapaksa destroy tents belonging to anti-government demonstrators, during a clash between the two groups, in front of the Prime Minister’s official residence. File. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Mr. Rajapaksa resigned a few hours later and a curfew was imposed across the country.

Mr. Rajapaksa, known for his brutal military campaign against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during his presidency from 2005 to 2015, saw his private residence set on fire on Monday. He, along with his wife and family, fled his official residence - Temple Trees - and took shelter at the naval base in Trincomalee after a series of deadly attacks on his supporters.

In a late-night televised address to the nation on May 11, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said action would be taken against the instigators of Monday’s “incident”. 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 the Rajapaksa brothers.

The powerful Rajapaksa clan has dominated Sri Lankan politics for years. Mr. Gotabaya is the last Rajapaksa family member in office and the resignation of his brother as Prime Minister did nothing to placate demonstrators or bring calm to the island nation.