Sri Lankan Prime Minister offers to resign after protesters attack presidential residence

Colombo-Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in a statement on Saturday that thousands of protesters are ready to resign to give way to all-party governments after attacking Colombo’s official residence.

Soldiers and police were unable to control a crowd of protesters demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. This is due to the growing public anger at the worst economic crisis in the country in 70 years.

Protesters also broke through the heavy metal gates into the Treasury and the president’s seaside offices.

Sri Lankan protest
Police used tear gas and water cannons on July 9, 2022, near the presidential residence in Colombo, Sri Lanka, during a protest demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa during the country’s economic crisis. Disbanded the demonstrators. (DinukaLiyanawatte / Reuters)

Rajapaksa left the official residence on Friday as a safety precaution prior to the planned weekend demonstration, two defense ministry sources said. Reuters could not immediately confirm the whereabouts of the president.

Wickremesinghe met with several party leaders to determine what action to take following the turmoil.

“Wickremesinghe told the party leader that he was ready to resign as prime minister and pave the way for the whole party government to take over,” his office said in a statement.

Wickremesinghe has also been moved to a safe place, government sources told Reuters.

Some opposition leaders are also calling for Rajapaksa’s resignation.

“The president and the prime minister must resign immediately. If that doesn’t happen, political instability will worsen,” he said. Sri Lanka Liberal Party leader and former president Maithripala Sirisena said before Wickremesinghe offered to resign.

Presidential pool

A live stream of Facebook from inside the president’s house showed that hundreds of protesters were dressed in national flags and packed into rooms and hallways.

In the video footage, some are splashing in the pool, while others are sitting on a four-poster bed and sofa. Some could see emptying the chest of drawers in images that were widely disseminated on social media.

Hundreds of people roamed on the grounds of a colonial whitewashed dwelling, with no visible guards.

Hospital sources told Reuters that at least 39 people, including two police officers, were injured and hospitalized during the protest.

Sri Lanka 3
Demonstrators escaped from tear gas used by police during a protest demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa during the country’s economic crisis near the presidential residence in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on July 9, 2022. increase. (DinukaLiyanawatte / Reuters)

With a population of 22 million, the island of the Indian Ocean suffers from a serious foreign exchange shortage that limits important imports of fuels, food and medicine, and is in the worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948.

Inflation, which reached a record 54.6% in June and is expected to reach 70% in the coming months, has hit the population hard.

Political instability undermines negotiations with the International Monetary Fund as Sri Lanka eases the dollar’s drought for $ 3 billion in bailouts, restructuring of external debt, and funding from multilateral and bilateral sources. There is a possibility.

“This is a dangerous situation. Without a clear transition, the resignation of the president and the prime minister will create a potentially dangerous vacuum of power. The chair can appoint a new all-party government. But it’s still unclear if they will be accepted by the protesters, “said political analyst Ksar Perera.

Economic crisis

The crisis occurs after COVID-19 has hit a tourism-dependent economy and reduced remittances from foreign workers.

It was exacerbated by heavy government debt increases, rising oil prices, and last year’s ban on the import of fertilizers that devastated agriculture. The fertilizer ban was lifted in November.

However, there have been months of mostly peaceful protests, many blaming the country’s decline due to Rajapaksa’s financial mismanagement and demanding his resignation.

Before breaking into a government building on Saturday, protesters demolished several police barricades in Colombo’s government district.

Police fired in the air, but witnesses said the angry crowd could not stop surrounding the presidential residence.

Demonstrators were packed into buses, trains and trucks from several parts of the country to arrive in Colombo for weekend demonstrations, despite a serious shortage of fuel stagnating transportation services. ..

Dissatisfaction has worsened in recent weeks as underfunded countries have stopped receiving fuel transport and have been forced to close schools and distribute gasoline and diesel for essential services.

A 37-year-old fisherman, Sampath Perera, took part in a protest on a crowded bus from the seaside town of Negombo, 45 km (30 miles) north of Colombo.

“We told Gota (Rajapaksa) to go home many times, but he still sticks to power. We won’t stop until he hears us.” Said Perella.

By Uditha Jayasinghe