Colombo: More than 1,000 valuable artefacts, including items of vintage and antique value have reportedly gone missing from Sri Lanka’s Presidential Palace and Prime Minister’s official residence at Temple Trees here after irate anti-government protesters occupied these premises earlier this month, police said on Saturday.
On July 9, anti-government protesters occupied the residences of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe after storming into their premises and setting fire to one of the buildings protesting the government’s handling of the unprecedented economic crisis.
Based on initial investigations at least 1,000 items of value, including rare artefacts have gone missing from the Presidential Palace as well as the Prime Minister’s official residence, web portal Colombo Page quoted police sources as saying.
Special investigation teams have been formed to begin an investigation, it said.
What is compounding the agony for the investigative officers is that the Sri Lankan Department of Archaeology does not have a detailed record of the antiques and different artefacts at the Presidential Palace, even though it has been gazetted as a place of archaeological importance, the report said.
A senior official of the Department of Archaeology told Sunday Lankadeepa newspaper that it would be difficult to get specific and clear information about the exact number of antiques that have gone missing, even though police estimate that it could be well over 1,000.
Newly-elected President Ranil Wickremesinghe said he respects the rights of the protesters to peacefully undertake their demonstrations, but he asserted that he will not allow another government building like the Presidential Palace or the Prime Minister’s private residence to be occupied.
Wickremesinghe said he has authorised Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police to take whatever action is necessary to stop people from storming public facilities and obstructing Parliament.
“Don’t obstruct the parliamentarians and the parliament from carrying out their duty,” he said this week.
In a pre-dawn raid on Friday, Sri Lankan security forces attacked a site of anti-government protesters at Galle Face, where several government offices are located, injuring at least nine persons. —PTI