Acting President of Sri Lanka Ranil Wickremesinghe on Wednesday said there was a fascist threat to democracy in the country and vowed to restore normalcy as well as stop the destruction of state property, hours after anti-government protesters stormed his office.
In his first televised address since being appointed to the post after embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled to the Maldives, Wickremesinghe said he had ordered military commanders and the police chief to do what is necessary to restore order.
“We must end this fascist threat to democracy. We can’t allow the destruction of state property. The President’s office, the President’s Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s official residence must be returned to proper custody,” he said.
“Those who are in my office want to stop me from discharging my responsibilities as acting president. We can’t let them tear up our Constitution. We can’t allow fascists to take over. Some mainstream politicians too seem to be supporting these extremists. That is why I declared a nation-wide emergency and a curfew,” Wickremesinghe said.
Wickremesinghe said he has ordered military commanders and the police chief to do what is necessary to restore order. He said as acting President he is declaring a state of emergency and a curfew in the Western province after his office was stormed by protesters.
He said according to intelligence inputs, protesters were to capture his office and Parliament, which prompted the action to impose emergency. Protesters have been demanding the resignation of both Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe to restore normalcy in the country.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s state-owned television channel Rupavihini suspended its telecast on Wednesday as protesters stormed the building, amidst the deepening political turmoil and economic crisis in the country.
The Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) said that its engineers have suspended their live and recorded telecasts as the corporation premises are being surrounded by protesters. Later, the channel resumed its transmission.
The police fired tear gas on protesters who broke through a barricade and stormed the prime minister’s office. Wickremesinghe has already said he was willing to resign and make way for an all-party government to take over.
The protesters, who stormed the three main buildings in the capital — the President’s House, the presidential secretariat and the prime minister’s official residence, Temple Trees, on Saturday, demanding the resignation of President Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe — are still occupying them.
Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million people, is under the grip of an unprecedented economic turmoil, the worst in seven decades, leaving millions struggling to buy food, medicine, fuel and other essentials.