Sri Lankan protesters demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa were forced to enter his official residence and nearby office on Saturday, as thousands protested in the capital against local television, local television said. the island nation’s worst economic crisis in recent times.
It’s not clear if Rajapaksa was inside the Colombo mansion, but cellphone footage showed a large number of people inside the fortified house and on the grounds outside.
Government spokesman, Mohana Samaranayake, said he had no information on whether Rajapaksa had left the residence.
Hundreds of protesters, some carrying national flags, also entered the president’s office in another nearby building, television footage showed. Protesters blame Rajapaksa for the country’s economic woes and have occupied the entrance to his office building for the past three months calling for his resignation.
Video posted on social media showed hundreds of protesters running into the presidential palace, chanting “Gotta go home,” calling the president by his nickname. Outside the building, the barricades were overturned.
At the president’s office, security officers tried to prevent protesters from crossing the fence and storming the colonial-era parliament building, which has been converted into the presidential office.
More than 30 people were injured
At least 34 people including two police officers were injured in scuffles as protesters tried to enter the mansion. An official at Colombo National Hospital, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said two of the injured were in critical condition while the others suffered minor injuries.
Thousands of protesters entered the capital Colombo from the suburbs earlier on Saturday after police lifted an overnight curfew.
Last month, Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the country’s economy had collapsed. The government’s negotiations with the International Monetary Fund are complicated as it has now entered the negotiations as a bankrupt country.
In April, Sri Lanka announced it would stop paying foreign loans due to a shortage of foreign currency. Its total external debt amounts to US$51 billion, of which it must pay $28 billion by the end of 2027.
Police imposed a curfew in Colombo and several other main metropolitan areas on Friday night but withdrew it on Saturday morning amid protests from opposition lawyers and politicians, who called This action is illegal.
US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung on Friday asked people to protest peacefully and called on the military and police to “give peaceful protesters space and security to do so.”
“Chaos and force will not be able to repair the economy or bring about the political stability that the people of Sri Lanka need right now,” Chung said in a tweet.
The economic crisis has led to severe shortages of essential goods such as fuel, cooking gas and medicine, forcing people to wait in long lines to buy limited supplies.
The months-long protests have nearly destroyed the Rajapaksa political dynasty that has ruled Sri Lanka for most of the past two decades. One of Rajapaksa’s brothers resigned as prime minister last month, while two other brothers and a nephew stepped down from their previous cabinet posts.
Wickremesinghe took office as prime minister in May and the protests temporarily subsided in hopes he could find cash for the country’s urgent needs, but people now want him to step down, saying he has failed to fulfill its promise.