Responding to growing criticism of the violent crackdown on protesters, Jaffna newspaper Kalaikkathir reports that, Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe assembled a meeting of senior diplomats where he berated officials over their criticisms of his office.
“Would your governments allow such protesters to illegally occupy the office of the President in your country and refuse to leave?" the irate President asked the diplomats present.
Speaking to the US Ambassador, Julie Chung, he reportedly told her to "read your country's history starting from Abraham Lincoln".
On Twitter, Julie Chung emphasised that during her meeting she made clear that "this is not the time to crack down on citizens".
(2/2) This is not the time to crack down on citizens, but instead to look ahead at the immediate and tangible steps the Government can take to regain the trust of the people, restore stability, and rebuild the economy.
— Ambassador Julie Chung (@USAmbSL) July 22, 2022
Sri Lanka's President further accused diplomats of relying solely on social media.
"How could it be right to make such announcements condemning me and my office without confirming the truth with the relevant authorities believing the information published on social media".
Wickremesinghe further slammed the diplomats, accusing them of creating the wrong impression of Sri Lanka internationally.
"The statements you thus made without confirming the matter with the concerned authorities, have created a wrong impression about Sri Lanka internationally".
"I am very much displeased with the actions of many of you," he lamented.
Jerin Samuel, an Indian journalist & BBC News cameraman, was attacked by members of #SriLanka‘s military as he was filming brutal pre-dawn crackdown on protesters at #Colombo‘s main protest site #GotaGoGama during the early hours of Friday (22). | Jerin Samuel / FB pic.twitter.com/mH2nVxEKD4
— JDS (@JDSLanka) July 22, 2022
The meeting on Friday followed the military’s suppression of demonstrators the day prior. Hundreds of soldiers swooped down on less than a hundred protesters, beating demonstrators and destroying their encampment. Over 50 people were injured, including a BBC video journalist who had his phone snatched by a soldier and his video deleted.
BBC journalist Anbarasan Ethirajan gave this description of the event:
"We saw soldiers shouting, dismantling and destroying makeshift tents and other items on the pavement. Troops also moved into the president's office, which was stormed by huge crowds last week."
"When we were returning from the area, a man in civilian clothes, surrounded by troops, shouted at my colleague and said he wanted to delete the videos from his phone. Within seconds, the man punched my colleague and snatched his phone."
"Although I explained to them we were journalists and simply doing our job, they wouldn't listen. My colleague was attacked further and we raised strong objections. The microphone of another BBC colleague was taken and thrown away."
"The phone was returned after the videos were deleted from the device. Another army officer intervened and let us go".
During the meeting, the President criticised the protesters for refusing to follow the law and warned that legal action would be taken.