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Protesters disregarded multiple requests to vacate Presidential Secretariat: Police

The police announced today that investigations are underway to identify all those who visited the Presidential Secretariat after it was occupied by the protesters on July 09, for the crime of trespassing.

Convening a media briefing on Saturday (July 23), the police spokesperson SSP Nihal Thalduwa said measures will also be taken to arrest all those who stole artifacts and other valuable items from the President’s House.

According to the police, the main suspects who stole valuable historical items from the establishment have been identified based on evidence on CCTV footage.

The police added that a broader investigation is underway to arrest all suspects involved.

In the meantime, the bomb disposal unit has also launched operations to ascertain whether any explosive devices have been placed at the President’s House and the Presidential Secretariat.

After the protesters occupying the presidential secretariat were removed from the premises on Friday morning in a joint operation carried out by the tri-forces, the police and the STF, they have now set camp at the GotaGoGama protest site. Meanwhile, this morning, part of the Lotus Road and the Galle Road that were barricaded from the Presidential Secretariat onwards were reopened for traffic.

Addressing the media briefing, SSP Thalduwa explained as to why the protesters were cleared of the historical building which was established in 1978.

“The entrance to the Presidential Secretariat was blocked by the protesters for some time now. The Colombo Fort Police had requested the protesters on nine occasions to stop blocking the entrance. However, they disregarded that request.”

He remarked that the police were operating with restraint over the past couple of months, letting the public to engage in peaceful protests at the Presidential Secretariat’s entrance.

Speaking further, he said the protesters who entered the presidential secretariat on the 09th of July were requested to vacate the premises by the OIC of the Colombo Central Police Division, his assistant and the OIC of the Fort Police on July 14th and 18th.

However, they responded aggressively to the request and refused to vacate the premises, he continued, adding that, as a result, the police had a problem with placing their trust in the protesters.

Stressing that no one will be allowed to undermine the country’s law, the police spokesperson said: “The new President does not have an office to carry out his duties, and responsibilities. The Presidential Secretariat is the only office. The Presidential Secretariat is the main administrative building where decisions are taken for the people of the country. After a new executive president is elected, it is our duty to have the premises cleared up in order to ensure that the officers could carry out their respective duties. We were in a situation where we could not trust their word when they stated that they would vacate the premises on an alternative day. This is why the tri-forces, the police and the STF worked together to remove the protesters who were illegally stationed at the premises.”

Even then, the police did not use emergency laws, SSP Thalduwa said further, noting that the law enforcement authorities and the military operated as per the common law of the country.

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