Intelligence agencies warned of return of violent street protests in Sri Lanka: President Wickremesinghe

Colombo:  Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday briefed the Cabinet on intelligence reports warning of attempts by certain groups to create public unrest of the type that had happened on May 9 last year.

The Cabinet spokesman and minister Bandula Gunawardena said the water crisis for cultivation caused by the ongoing drought was used by opposition groups to create problems in the cash-strapped country.

The farmers in the southwestern region of Udawalawe have been protesting for weeks demanding water for cultivation from the Samanalawewa reservoir — a dedicated reservoir to produce hydro power.

The officials have been reluctant to release water from the reservoir, saying it could cause daily electricity cuts.

There were attempts to surround the house of Agricultural Minister Mahinda Amaraweera while sp

Gunawardena said the intelligence reports suggested that at least two media institutions were behind the move to incite street violence using the drought-induced water crisis.

“They had planned to organise May 9-like street protests with agitated farmers, causing a gunfire retaliation from the law enforcement and then using dead bodies to meet political ends,” Gunawardena said.

In the May 9 incident last year, the then prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was forced to resign as violence erupted across the island nation after government supporters attacked peaceful protesters agitating over the then government’s inability to tackle the economic crisis which caused severe public hardships.

The farmer agitation ended on August 8 morning with the cabinet decision to release the Samanalawewa hydropower reservoir water for farming purposes.

The energy minister informed Parliament on August 8 the state power entity would be forced to make emergency power supplies at a higher cost to ensure uninterrupted power supplies.

ecial protection had to be provided to the house of Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara,” Gunawardena said.