Sri Lanka Crisis: Protesters storm President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's home, take dip in swimming pool; here's what we know so far

Rajapaksa was moved to the Army headquarters last night following intelligence reports that the situation at Saturday's planned rally "would go out of control", a top government source told NDTV.

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Saturday, July 09, 2022, 07:05 PM IST
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The president of Sri Lanka Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled as the protestors surrounded his residence in Colombo.

The news of his fleeing came shortly after the Sri Lankan police fired tear gas at protestors on Saturday, July 9, in the largest anti-government marches in the crisis-hit country this year.

Rajapaksa was moved to the Army headquarters last night following intelligence reports that the situation at Saturday's planned rally "would go out of control", a top government source told NDTV.

Resignation:

Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is willing to resign to make way for an all-party government, his office said in a statement on Saturday.

The Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa demanded the resignation of the President and Prime Minister following nationwide protests.

"No fake discussions. The President and the Prime Minister must resign immediately," Premadasa said in a statement. Sri Lanka's leader of opposition said that as the people are demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the current Prime Minister, the United People's Power has decided to not participate in the emergency Party Leaders meeting, called by Ranil Wickremesinghe.

PM calls emergency meet:

PM Ranil Wickremesinghe has called an emergency meeting of political party leaders amid growing anger over the government’s handling of an economic crisis.

Wickremesinghe also requested the speaker to summon parliament, a statement from the prime minister’s office said.

Wickremesinghe has also been moved to a secure location, a government source told Reuters news agency.

Demonstrations and protests:

Tens of thousands of protesters broke police barriers blocking the President's House where Rajapaksa has been housed since late March when the islandwide protests raged calling for his resignation.

They swarmed into Colombo's government district, shouting slogans such as "Gota go home!" and breaking through several police barricades to reach President Rajapaksa's house.

The protesters also clashed with the railway authorities in provincial towns of Galle, Kandy, and Matara as the demonstrators forced authorities to operate trains to Colombo.

Protesters who climbed the walls of the President's House are now occupying it without damaging any property or indulging in acts of violence.

Video footage from inside the building showed hundreds of protesters packing into rooms and corridors, while hundreds also milled around the grounds outside.

In videos that emerged on social media, dozens of protesters were seen jumping into Rajapaksa's swimming pool. The protesters were watching television in the President's house and were rolling around on the President's bed.

The anti-government protests in April forced the resignation of prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, the elder brother of President Rajapaksa, in May.

People injured:

At least 30 people, including two policemen, were injured in clashes between security personnel and protesters - some of them holding Sri Lankan flags and helmets.

Several gunshots were heard being fired in the air and police unsuccessfully used tear gas to ward off protestors who surrounded the presidential residence.

Curfew:

The curfew was imposed in seven police divisions in the Western Province, which included Negombo, Kelaniya, Nugegoda, Mount Lavinia, Colombo North, Colombo South, and Colombo Central with effect from 9 pm on Friday night until further notice.

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka called the police curfew a gross violation of human rights. The Human Rights Commission informs that the imposition of police curfew arbitrarily by the inspector general of police is illegal.

Bankruptcy:

Sri Lankan prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe declared the country "bankrupt" on Tuesday as its financial crisis deepens.

The economy began to falter in late 2020, which the government blamed on the pandemic but one expert said was mainly caused by political mismanagement and racking up debts with China.

The island country of 22 million population had been reeling under a severe economic crisis and has limited essential imports of fuel, food, and medicine and this turmoil have been dubbed one of the worst in seven decades.

(with sources and agency inputs)

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