U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet is calling on Sri Lankan authorities to stem further violence by addressing the country’s economic crisis through meaningful dialogue.
The fallout from weeks of mounting anger over soaring prices, fuel shortages and power cuts has been great. Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned Monday following a day of escalating violence.
Peaceful protests turned into deadly riots after supporters of the prime minister reportedly attacked demonstrators in the capital, Colombo, and angry mobs subsequently assaulted members of the ruling party.
Seven people reportedly have died, more than 250 were injured, and property has been burned to the ground. Liz Throssell, spokeswoman for Bachelet, said the high commissioner is deeply troubled by the events.
“The high commissioner condemned all violence and called on the authorities to independently, thoroughly and transparently investigate all attacks that have occurred," Throssell said. "She says it is crucial to ensure that those found responsible, including those inciting or organizing violence, are held to account.”
The economic crisis is widely viewed as the worst facing the country since Sri Lanka gained its independence from Britain in 1948. The dire situation has severely undermined people’s ability to meet their daily needs and has prompted thousands to go into the streets to vent their grievances.
Throssell said the high commissioner is calling for national dialogue and deep structural reforms to tackle the issues.
“The high commissioner urged the Sri Lankan government to engage in meaningful dialogue with all parts of society to find a pathway forward and address the socio-economic challenges people, especially vulnerable and marginalized groups, are facing," Throssell said. "She called on the government to address the broader political and systemic root causes that have long perpetuated discrimination and undermined human rights.”
High Commissioner Bachelet is calling on Sri Lankan authorities to prevent further violence and to protect the right to peaceful assembly. She said her office will continue to watch events in the country and report on them.
Past fact-finding reports on Sri Lanka by her office have been critical of government policies, which they blame for widespread human rights violations. Bachelet said she hopes the government will find a peaceful solution to the current crisis to alleviate the people’s suffering and strengthen democracy and human rights.