Sri Lankan prime minister resigns as protesters storm presidential palace

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he would step down as protests escalated over the country’s economic crisis leaving the government on the brink of collapse.

Protesters stormed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s residence in the capital Colombo on Saturday and the government effectively lost control of the city, prompting party leaders to call on Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe to give up.

In a statement on Twitter, Wickremesinghe said his resignation would make way for an all-party government. Rajapaksa has not yet commented.

Sri Lanka The country is grappling with one of the worst economic disasters in history after the country depleted its foreign exchange reserves, leading to shortages of fuel, food and medicine and a dramatic drop in living standards.

The island 22 million Unable to pay foreign debt in May, becoming the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to do so in two decades.

People attending an anti-government rally near the Presidential House call for Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign

Protesters flooded the streets of Colombo on Saturday © Chamila Karunarathne / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in central Colombo on Saturday to call for Rajapaksa to step down. The crowd overwhelmed security forces, who deployed tear gas and water cannons, storming the Presidential House and the Presidential Office, his office.

Local media reported Rajapaksa was evacuated from the mansion on Friday in anticipation of unrest. His whereabouts are unclear. Video on social media shows protesters swimming in the president’s swimming pool after occupying the building.

Rajapaksa has despite widespread calls to resign and in May appointed Wickremesinghe in an attempt to retain control. But Saturday’s protests marked a new low for the president, a former military leader whose hold on power has become increasingly precarious.

A monk who throws a tear gas projectile is shot by police to disperse protesters in Colombo on Saturday

Crowds overwhelmed security forces’ efforts to disperse © Amitha Thennakoon / AP

The confrontation was the most dramatic escalation of protests since May, when clashes between pro- and anti-government protesters led Wickremesinghe’s predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya’s brother, to resign from office. prime minister.

Sri Lanka is negotiating a multi-billion dollar bailout with the IMF and is getting started debt restructuring negotiations with its creditors, including private bondholders, and countries including China, Japan and India. Sri Lanka owes more than 50 billion USD abroad.

An IMF team visited Colombo last month but have yet to agree on a rescue deal.

The situation for the people of Sri Lanka, which previously enjoyed some of the highest standards of living in South Asia, has deteriorated dramatically. Last month, the country banned private vehicles from refueling to save energy for essential services.

Businesses are having a hard time operating because of daily blackouts that last for hours, while authorities have closed schools. Some governments have advised their citizens not to travel to this country, tourism wreaks havocone of Sri Lanka’s most important foreign currency sources.

Rajapaksa, who hails from one of Sri Lanka’s most powerful political dynasties, was elected in 2019. Along with his brother Mahinda, who served as president from 2005 to 2015, Gotabaya helped end the civil war. brutality of the island in 2009 after leading a military campaign to crush Tamil Tiger rebels.

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