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The rising of peoples’ power against Fonseka’s arrest

: Government goon squads and police fired tear gas against protesters
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by Our Correspondent In Colombo

(February 10, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Around 20,000 people gathered at the court premises at Hulsdorf to protest the arrest of Sarath Fonseka, the common candidate for the opposition who was arrested yesterday (February 9) and who is being held in military custody. People shouted slogans saying that the election has been stolen and the general has been put behind bars. They called for Fonseka’s immediate release and a frequent slogan was that ‘lightning should strike Rajapakse.’

At the early stages of the protest when around 8,000 people gathered peacefully and were protesting, a goon squad appeared from around the nearby police station with poles and jeered the protestors. A bystander said that the group was led by a well known underground figure known as Indika, a close associated of Minister Mervyn Silva, who has a reputation for leading goon squads and attacking those opposed to the government. Several bystanders said that this group started throwing stones at the protesters which included several monks and women.

Thereafter the protesters chased away the goon squad who fled into the police station. “All throughout the police protected the good squads,” said a bystander. At this stage the police started firing tear gas at the protesters whose number increased and a large crowd of over 20,000 persons broke through the police barricades and continued with their protest.

A trade unionist participating in the protest said, “For a long time I have not seen such a massive, spontaneous protest and the feeling among the protesters that they were able to defeat the government goon squads and the police firing tear gas”.

Several leading politicians were present and addressed the crowd. The Muslim Congress leader, Rauf Hakeem, the UNP Deputy leader Karu Jayasuiriya, the JVP leader Somawansa Amerasinghe, another candidate for the presidential election, Wickramabahu Karunaratne and many other leaders addressed the crowds. They condemned the arrest of the opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka and said the election victory of the people had been stolen. They vowed to continue the protest throughout the country until Sarath Fonseka is released. They also stated that similar protests are being held today in other towns such as Gampaha, Galle and Ratnapura.

The lawyers in Hulsdorf very actively participated in the protest. Over 200 lawyers were seen among the crowds trying to maintain law and order. Among the crowds were people from all walks of life, workers as well as members of various professions and sections of the middle class. There was a common atmosphere of disbelief and anger about Fonseka’s arrest.

(A wounded supporter of defeated presidential candidate Gen. Sarath Fonseka looks on after a street clash in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010. Government supporters hurled stones at opposition activists protesting the arrest of their defeated presidential candidate in Sri Lanka's capital Wednesday, in scattered street battles that prompted volleys of tear gas from police.)

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