Sri Lanka Under Seige: Protesters storm President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's home, PM Ranil Wickremesinghe's house set on fire

At least 30 persons, including two police officers, were injured during the protests and had to be hospitalised

FPJ BureauUpdated: Saturday, July 09, 2022, 11:52 PM IST
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Protestors participate in an anti-government demonstration outside the Presidents office in Colombo on July 9, 2022. | (Photo by AFP)

COLOMBO: Thousands of furious protesters on Saturday scaled barricades and stormed the embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's official residence in the high-security Fort area. These demonstrators had arrived from across the country in buses, trains and trucks.

The protestors were demanding Rajapaksa’s resignation over the island nation's worst economic crisis in recent memory. Most of them blame the Rajapaksa family, in power for years, for mismanaging the economy and borrowing heavily from China. The country has run out of foreign currency and is struggling to import basics like fuel, food and medicine; the shortages are only growing worse by the day.

Protesters climbed the walls of the President's House and were fired at, but the police could not stop them from overrunning the residence. Videos showed protesters taking selfies on beds and sitting on furniture, while were chanting "we say go now" and waving Sri Lankan flags in the main foyer of the house, reports BBC. The most enduring image was of protestors having a splash in the swimming pool on the presidential premises.

Rajapaksa was not in the building at the time; security officials said he had been taken to a safe location.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe – the other man in the eye of the storm -- has informed party leaders that he is willing to resign from his post to make way for an all-party government. BBC cited latest reports which said the protesters had also barged into the PM's residence.

At least 30 persons, including two police officers, were injured during the protests and had to be hospitalised. 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.

Large contingents of police, special task force, and the Army had been deployed around the area.

A police curfew had been imposed to quell the protest rally march to Colombo from around the country planned over the weekend by religious leaders, political parties, medical practitioners, teachers, civil rights activists, farmers, and fishermen.

In April, the anti-government protestors had forced Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, the elder brother of President Rajapaksa, to resign.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung has urged the country's military and police to allow peaceful protests.

“Violence is not an answer... Chaos & force will not fix the economy or bring political stability that Sri Lankans need right now,” she tweeted.

Political and economic instability could potentially derail Sri Lanka's much-awaited USD 3 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), warned analysts.

Last week, Wickremesinghe announced in Parliament that Sri Lanka would present a debt restructuring programme to the IMF by August to secure a bailout package while underlining that the negotiations with the global lender were more complex and difficult than in the past because the country was “bankrupt”.

The country, with an acute foreign currency crisis that resulted in foreign debt default, had announced in April that it is suspending nearly USD 7 billion foreign debt repayment due for this year out of about USD 25 billion due through 2026.

Sri Lanka's total foreign debt stands at USD 51 billion.

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