As per media reports, the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court has lifted the travel ban imposed on former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. In May 2022, the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court prohibited Rajapaksa and more than a dozen other lawmakers from travelling abroad due to ongoing investigations into their alleged involvement in the deadly attack on nonviolent anti-government protestors in Colombo. Around nine people were killed during those clashes, and over 300 others were injured in the violence.
Apart from Rajapaksa, the court lifted the travel ban against MP Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi, and ex-provincial Council member Kanchana Jayaratne.
While arguing in the court, the President’s Counsel, Shavendra Fernando, representing former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, MP Rohitha Abeygunawardena, minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi, and former provincial council member Kanchana Jayaratne, cited the fact that none of them was listed as suspects in the investigation and requested the court to relax the travel restrictions placed on them.
After the hearing, Colombo Fort Magistrate Thilina Gamage instructed the court registrar to immediately convey the order to the Controller General of Immigration and Emigration. The impounded passports were ordered to be released.
However, the travel ban on MP Milan Jayathilake was extended to the next court date. Earlier, Hewagamage Manjula, Ramesh Bhanuka, Chamath Thivanka, and Nishantha De Mel were released on bail; now, the Magistrate has ordered to release them from the case.
History of the Clashes
Sri Lanka was suffering from the worst economic crisis since gaining independence in 1948, which was because of COVID-19 and other reasons, such as economic policies like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of China. The worsening economic situation in the country led to increasing tensions last year, which resulted in several confrontations between individuals and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations where thousands of desperate members of the public have queued for hours and sometimes days.
On July 22, 2022, a large military group, along with the police, launched a raid near the Presidential Secretariat and the protest site at Galle Face to clear the area of protesters. Several arrests were made.
With many Sri Lankans experiencing extreme shortages of essentials, including food and fuel, peaceful protests began in March. The demonstrations led then-Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to resign on May 9 and his brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to flee the country on July 13 and resign the following day.
Wickremasinghe became acting president, and parliament elected him as the new president on July 20 with the support of the Rajapaksa’s political party, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna. Furthermore, Dinesh Gunawardena is now the Prime Minister.