Following a week of political turmoil that has left Sri Lanka with two Prime Ministers, there are serious concerns about the potential for widespread protests that could turn violent. Large protests are expected on Tuesday 30th of October in Colombo. Monitor the media and avoid the area – further advice below.

On Friday, the President of Sri Lanka, President Sirisena dismissed Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and appointed opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place. Wickremesinghe has said this move is illegitimate and he has refused to leave the official residence. He has stated that he remains prime minister.

Sirisena suspended parliament from noon on Saturday until the 16th of November, when it will reconvene and decide who is prime minister.

Oil ministry shooting

Following the suspension of parliament and the firing of the cabinet, oil minister Arjuna Ranatunga tried to re-enter his office at the headquarters of state oil company Ceylon Petroleum Corp. Protestors blocked his path and tried to stop him entering. One of his security guards opened fire, injuring two people and killing another. The security guard was arrested on Sunday and Ranatunga was arrested on Monday. Ranatunga, who was a famous cricketer before running for office, has said his security guard opened fire because the crowd was trying to kill him.

A very problematic past

Rajapaska was in charge of the country during the end of the civil war, which saw very disturbing alleged war crimes committed against the Tamil fighters. Huge numbers of civilians died. The Guardian reports that his ‘tenure was also marred by accusations his security forces were forcibly disappearing, torturing and murdering activists and dissidents.’

There are reports of Rajapaksa’s supporters intimidating the press over the weekend. Al Jazeera reports that ‘supporters of Rajapaksa stormed several state media institutions and intimidated staff after he was sworn in.’

England cricket match

England’s cricket team is currently on tour in Sri Lanka. The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is monitoring the security situation. You can find guidance and more details, including contact information, on the FCO’s advice page – England Cricket Tour of Sri Lanka travel advice.

The Telegraph reports that the England team have been warned up to 15,000 people may attend the protest –

The demonstration is scheduled to take place over two miles away from the venue in Maitland Crescent where England are playing their first warm-up match at Nondescripts Cricket Club. The demonstrators are due to meet outside Temple Trees, the residence of Sri Lanka’s prime minister, which happens to be on the same street as the England team hotel, the Shangri-la, albeit nearly one mile away.

Travel advice

Travel advice for those who are in Sri Lanka –

  • You should avoid demonstrations, large crowds of people and public events.
  • Review your travel risk management plan, so you know what to do in an emergency.
  • Make sure you have the contact information of your travel insurance company and your local embassy stored in a secure offline location.
  • Monitor local media.
  • If possible, set aside some supplies of food and bottled water.
  • Keep your devices charged.
  • Check in with friends and family.
  • If something does happen, contact the local embassy as soon as it is safe to do so.

Official travel advice

Headlines and news coverage

 

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