Sri Lankan police have arrested two ruling party lawmakers on charges of inciting mob violence that plunged the country into unrest and killing nine people last week, officials said on Wednesday.
A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said both lawmakers from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s party were questioned by criminal investigators on Tuesday evening and detained overnight.
“There is direct evidence against the two MPs and that is why they have been arrested,” the official said.
Among the 22 politicians, including former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his son Namal, were Sanath Nishant and Milan Jayathila – whose passports were confiscated last week for inciting violence.
On May 9, thousands of supporters of the ruling party who boarded a bus in the capital attacked a peaceful demonstration by anti-government protesters demanding the resignation of President Rajapaksa due to the economic crisis that has crippled the country.
The then-Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa – the president’s elder brother – resigned shortly after the onslaught of retaliatory violence and arson, which destroyed the homes of more than 70 leaders of the ruling party.
More than 225 people have been hospitalized since the violence, according to health officials.
Police say they have arrested about 500 people in connection with the violence and retaliation.
Thousands protest outside the president’s frontline office in Colombo, demanding his resignation because of an economic crisis that has led to a severe shortage of food, fuel and essential medicines.
The deficit is accompanied by record inflation and prolonged blackouts, which has brought severe hardship to Sri Lankans, who are facing the worst financial crisis in the country since independence from Britain in 1948.
Last week, Ranil Wickremesinghe was appointed Prime Minister.
Bikram Singh has the support of two main opposition parties in forming a “unity government” aimed at bringing the country out of crisis, but has yet to form a full-fledged cabinet.
Four ministers were appointed on Saturday. Official sources said Bikram Singh is still in talks with potential coalition partners to finalize his cabinet.
The Prime Minister is expected to take up important money portfolios for the ongoing bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund.
Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said the energy crisis was worse than initially feared.
“We will not be able to supply petrol in the next two days and I am appealing to motorists not to line up,” Wijesekera told parliament.
He said the government had been able to raise 53 million for a petrol tanker that was already in Colombo port and was awaiting full payment before unloading.
“It will be Saturday or Sunday before we deliver petrol, but we have a reserve for essential services, such as ambulances,” Wisesekera said.
The foreign exchange crisis has also led to a shortage of 14 essential medicines, including the anti-rabies vaccine.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)