Former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was evacuated from his official residence in Temple Trees, has been be protected at the Trincomalee Naval BaseDefense Minister Kamal Guneratne said on Wednesday, two days after the country witnessed unprecedented mob violence after the former strongman resigned.
The 76-year-old leader of the Sri Lankan People’s Party (SLPP), known for his brutal military campaign against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during his presidency from 2005 to 2015, is being protected amid nationwide protests over the failure of the government to deal with the worst economic crisis.
He is also facing calls for the arrest of opposition politicians for inciting violence against peaceful anti-government protesters who demanded his resignation, as well as that of his older brother and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for mismanagement of the country’s economy.
“He (Mahinda Rajapaksa) was evacuated to the Trincomalee Naval Dockyard,” Guneratne told reporters in an online briefing.
The defense minister said Mahinda Rajapaksa was being evacuated from his Temple Trees residence in Colombo to the naval dockyard in the eastern port city of Trincomalee.
“We saw them (protesters) try to enter Temple Trees that night, we prevented it,” he said.
Gunaratne said Mahinda Rajapaksa will be held there until the security situation improves, “then he can go to any place of his choice”.
Mahinda Rajapaksa’s resistance on Monday not to resign while addressing his supporters caused chaos in the country. His supporters faced a wave of criticism after they attacked anti-government protesters.
He resigned as prime minister on Monday amid unprecedented economic turmoil in the country, hours after his supporters attacked anti-government protesters, forcing authorities to impose a nationwide curfew and deploy army troops in the capital. The attack sparked widespread violence against pro-Rajapaksa politicians.
At least 9 people died and more than 200 were hospitalized. Some 58 Mahinda Rajapaksa government colleagues have seen arson attacks on their personal property.
Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was Prime Minister of the country three times, saw his home set on fire on Monday.
Mahinda Rajapaksa fled his official residence – Temple Trees – along with his wife and family and sought shelter at the naval base in Trincomalee.
Police fired tear gas canisters all night Monday to quell crowds trying to break into Temple Trees’ home. In the early hours of Tuesday, police fired tear gas and warning shots to hold back the crowd as security forces removed Mahinda and his family from his official residence.
As news spread of his reported presence at the Trincomalee naval base, people began protesting near the main military facility.
A curfew has been imposed across the island after gangs set fire to the ancestral home of the ruling Rajapaksa family amid mounting anger over their poor handling of the economy, leading to the island’s worst economic crisis .
Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948. The crisis is partly caused by a lack of foreign currency, which has prevented the country from paying for basic food and fuel imports, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.
Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets across Sri Lanka since April 9 to demand the resignation of President Gotabaya and his brother Mahinda as the government ran out of money for essential imports; the prices of essential raw materials have skyrocketed and there are acute shortages of fuel, medicines and electricity.