Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe briefed the cabinet on Tuesday about intelligence reports that warned of public unrest by some groups. Cabinet spokesperson and minister Bandula Gunawardene said the crisis of water for agriculture due to the current drought was being used by opposition groups to create problems in the country.
Farmers in the southwestern region of Udawala have been protesting for weeks, demanding water for farming from the Samanalawewa reservoir. Officials had been reluctant to release water from the reservoir, saying it could lead to daily power cuts. “Attempts were made to surround the house of Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, while Energy Minister Kanchana Vijayasekara’s house had to be provided with special security,” Gunawardene said.
He said that intelligence reports suggest that at least two media organizations are behind the move to incite violence on the streets by using the water crisis due to the drought. Gunawardene said, “They had planned to organize street protests on May 9 with angry farmers, after which law enforcement agencies retaliated and then used the dead bodies to meet political objectives.”
In the May 9 incident last year, the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was forced to resign after peaceful protesters protesting the then government’s inability to deal with the economic crisis were attacked by supporters of the government, following which the entire Violence erupted in the island nation.
The farmers’ agitation ended on Tuesday morning with the cabinet’s decision to release water from the Samanalawewa hydroelectric reservoir for agricultural purposes. The power minister informed Parliament on Tuesday that the state power utility would be forced to undertake emergency power supply at a high cost to ensure uninterrupted power supply.