Sri Lankan protesters attack residences of President and PM as pair promise to resign

Sri Lankan protesters attack residences of President and PM as pair promise to resign

Sri Lankan protesters attack residences of President and PM as pair promise to resign

Thousands of protesters storm President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s official residence in Colombo.(Reuters: Dinuka Liyanawatte)

Source: ABC News

Hours after thousands of protesters stormed the Sri Lankan President’s residence, others have broken into the Prime Minister’s private home and set it on fire, not long after he said he would resign from office.

The office of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the protesters forced their way into his Colombo home on Saturday evening.

It was not immediately clear if he was inside at the time of the attack.

Earlier, Mr Wickremesinghe had said he would resign to make way for an all-party government, after thousands of protesters stormed the President’s official residence in Colombo.

Mr Wickremesinghe said in a statement he would resign when all parties had agreed on a new government.

“Today in this country we have a fuel crisis, a food shortage, we have the head of the World Food Program coming here and we have several matters to discuss with the IMF (International Monetary Fund),” he said.

His decision came after soldiers and police were unable to hold back a crowd of chanting protesters demanding President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation amid growing public anger over the country’s worst economic crisis in seven decades.

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Demonstrators, this one throwing tear gas, clashed with riot police.(Reuters: Dinuka Liyanawatte)

President to step down

That resignation from Mr Rajapaska appears imminent, with Sri Lanka’s parliamentary Speaker, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, announcing late on Saturday evening that the President had informed him he would step down from his role on Wednesday.

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Mr Rajapaksa’s home was stormed by protesters.(AP: Eranga Jayawardena)

 

In a statement, Mr Abeywardena said the decision for Mr Rajapaksa to step down on July 13 was made to “ensure a peaceful handover of power” and he asked the public to “respect the law and maintain peace”.

Earlier on Saturday, protesters holding Sri Lankan flags and wearing helmets broke into the President’s residence, video footage from local TV news NewsFirst channel showed. 

Riot police could be seen using water cannons and tear gas to try to disperse the crowd.

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Police fire tear gas to disperse demonstrators near the President’s residence.(Reuters: Dinuka Liyanawatte)Protesters also forced their way through heavy metal gates into the finance ministry and the President’s seafront offices.

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Police use water cannons to disperse demonstrators near the President’s residence on Saturday.(Reuters: Dinuka Liyanawatte)

 

Mr Rajapaksa left the official residence on Friday as a safety precaution ahead of the planned weekend demonstration, two defence ministry sources said.

Protesters in presidential pool

A Facebook live stream from inside the President’s house showed hundreds of protesters, some draped in flags, packing into rooms and corridors, shouting slogan’s against Mr Rajapaksa.

Video footage showed some of them splashing in the swimming pool, while others sat on a four-poster bed and sofas.

ome could be seen emptying out a chest of drawers in images that were widely circulated on social media.

Hundreds milled about in the grounds of the colonial-era whitewashed residence, with no security personnel in sight.

At least 39 people, including two police, were injured and hospitalised in the protests, hospital sources told Reuters.

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Protesters pack into rooms and corridors after storming Mr Rajapaksa’s residence.(Reuters: Dinuka Liyanawa

 

The island nation of 22 million people is struggling under a severe foreign exchange shortage that has limited essential imports of fuel, food and medicine, plunging it into financial crisis.

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Protesters gather in their thousands after the storming of the Presidential Secretariat building in Colombo.(Reuters: Dinuka Liyanawatte)

‘Gota, go home’

Despite a severe shortage of fuel that has stalled transportation services, demonstrators packed into buses, trains and trucks from several parts of the country to reach Colombo to protest against the government’s failure to protect them from economic ruin.

Discontent has worsened in recent weeks as the cash-strapped country stopped receiving fuel shipments, forcing school closures and rationing of petrol and diesel for essential services.

Sampath Perera, a 37-year-old fisherman, took an overcrowded bus from the seaside town of Negombo, 45km north of Colombo, to join the protest.

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Protesters gather on a lawn inside President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s official residence.(News Cutter via Reuters)

“We have told [the President], Gota, over and over again to go home, but he is still clinging onto power,” Mr Perera said.

“We will not stop until he listens to us.”

He is among the millions squeezed by chronic fuel shortages and inflation that hit 54.6 per cent in June.

Political instability could undermine Sri Lanka’s talks with the IMF as it seeks a $US3 billion ($4.3 billion) bailout, a restructuring of some foreign debt and fundraising from multilateral and bilateral sources to ease the dollar drought.

“The Speaker can appoint a new all-party government, but whether they will be accepted by the protesters remains to be seen.”

Reuters

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