February 4, 2011 (AFP) – Government and opposition activists clashed in Sri Lanka’s capital Friday as the country marked its national day amid calls to free jailed opposition leader and former army chief Sarath Fonseka.
Police said violence erupted near the country’s main prison in Colombo as the opposition marched to press for the release of Fonseka, who is serving a 30-month jail term.
Several opposition activists, including an opposition MP, were wounded while a large number of vehicles had their windows smashed.
“The two groups fought as the protest march went past a religious ceremony organised by some government lawmakers,” police deputy inspector general Anura Senanayake said.
The main opposition United National Party said the violence against its supporters was an attack on freedom of expression and a “black mark” on the country’s independence day.
“Is this democracy?” opposition MP Ravi Karunanayake asked reporters. “The government is responsible.” He said several supporters were beaten up with sticks and sharp metal objects.
There was no immediate comment from the government.
Earlier in the day, President Mahinda Rajapakse marked national day by freeing 1,669 convicts, but hi