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Sri Lankan monk, activists detained by police

Buddhist monk among those arrested for allegedly damaging public property during anti-government protest

Activists from Samagi Vanitha Balawegaya, part of the main opposition party Samagi Jana Balawegaya, try to overturn a police barricade during a protest outside Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's residence in Colombo on June 22

Activists from Samagi Vanitha Balawegaya, part of the main opposition party Samagi Jana Balawegaya, try to overturn a police barricade during a protest outside Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's residence in Colombo on June 22. (Photo: AFP)

Published: June 23, 2022 10:39 AM GMT

Updated: June 23, 2022 11:39 AM GMT

Seven prominent youth activists including a Buddhist monk were detained by police when they reported to a police station on June 22.

The suspects, who were arrested for allegedly damaging public property during a protest in front of the police headquarters, will be remanded to July 1.

Among those remanded are Ven. Rathkarawe Jinarathana Thera, actor Jehan Appuhamy, social media activists Rathidu Senaratne, Dhammika Munasinghe and Lahiru Weerasekera, Catholic actor Jagath Manuwarna and Eranga Gunasekera.

Actor Appuhamy recently completed a three-day walk to Galle Face Green carrying a wooden cross and demanding justice for victims and families affected by the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings. He covered a distance of 40 kilometers and was welcomed by thousands of people who have been protesting against the government and demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for mismanaging the economy.

Police said the seven suspects, who were wanted for illegal assembly opposite the police headquarters on June 9, had surrendered to Maradana police via counsel.

Tharindu Uduwaragedara, a member of the Sri Lanka Young Journalists' Association and a human rights activist, has been summoned to appear before the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

"People have taken to the streets to demand solutions to the country's economic problems but instead the government misuse the police to oppress the people" 

The Young Journalists’ Association has called on the Human Rights Commission to take immediate action to protect his rights.

Uduwaragedara received a police message at his residence informing him to appear before the CID's Computer Crimes Unit on June 28.

The statement will be taken in connection with an investigation regarding Uduwaragedara's YouTube channel. The official said the probe is being carried out based on a complaint lodged by the Air Force Intelligence.

"People have taken to the streets to demand solutions to the country's economic problems but instead the government misuse the police to oppress the people," said rights activist Surin Randil.

Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves have been depleted, leading to a shortage of food, fuel and other essentials. The country also faces power cuts every day. The worst economic crisis since independence in 1948 has caused widespread discontent, with protesters taking to the streets nationwide calling for the government to resign.

Peaceful protesters were attacked by pro-government supporters in Colombo on May 9.

"The public demand the release of all those who have been arrested and allowing journalists to continue their work without the government interfering" 

Some 21 protesters including a Buddhist monk were arrested by police following a protest held opposite the presidential secretariat and the Ministry of Finance on June 20. The symbolic protest marked President Rajapaksa’s 73rd birthday.

A Catholic priest said Buddhist, Christian and other religious leaders have come up with various solutions to the economic and political crisis but the rulers do not listen.

Catholic bishops urged the government to provide a relief package for the poor and liberate the people from their day-to-day sufferings.

"Political leaders have once again started misleading the people," said the priest from the Archdiocese of Colombo who requested anonymity.

"The public demand the release of all those who have been arrested and allowing journalists to continue their work without the government interfering." 

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