Sri Lanka saw yet another day of political tumult on Saturday as the country’s president and the prime minister were compelled to step down. By afternoon, soon after an unprecedented number of protesters stormed Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s palace, reports emerged that he had fled. Hours later a video was widely shared, which according to some reports, had the Sri Lanka president aboard a ship.
A video clip that has been doing rounds on social media showed three men carrying suitcases and running to load them on the ship SLNS Gajabahu, reports Hindustan Times. The Sri Lankan president reportedly fled from his house Saturday afternoon after mobs – raising slogans of ‘Gota, go home’ – overran the building’s compound.
As night fell, a statement was made public that he would resign on July 13. This was hours after Sri Lanka PM Ranil Wickremesinghe said he would quit.
“Social media footage apparently filmed at #Colombo port shows luggage being loaded to #SriLanka @srilanka_navy ship SLNS GAJABAHU raising fears of a VVIP or a family is leaving the country. A voice in the background can be heard in Sinhala saying ‘Gota is leaving’,” read a tweet. Hindustan Times cannot independently verify this video.
Social media was awash with videos and photos of demonstrators walking into the Rajapaksa palace, entering all the rooms of the house and even jumping into the pool.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators were on the streets of Sri Lanka’s capital city Colombo on Saturday, demanding the president’s resignation after a months-long financial crisis that has crippled the island nation’s food and fuel security. Agitators crossed the fences and barged into Rajapaksa’s palace, a sea-facing colonial-era building, showing unprecedented visuals from the island nation of 22 million. Police had initially attempted to thwart the protests with a curfew but then lifted it as lawyers and opposition politicians denounced it as illegal.
The island nation has suffered through months of food and fuel shortages, long blackouts and galloping inflation after running out of foreign currency to import vital goods.
The government was in talks with the International Monetary Fund over a bailout and also received aid – line of credits to buy fuel, food, medical supplies and other essentials – from India, which has loaned over $3 billion worth already.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he will leave office once a new government is in place, while Rajapaksa is set to step down on July 13.
Protestors find 17.85 mn rupees inside Rajapaksa’s residence
Colombo, Jul 10 (PTI): The anti-government protesters in Sri Lanka who stormed embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s official residence have claimed to have recovered 17.85 million Sri Lankan Rupees inside his mansion.
A video was being shared on social media showing the protesters counting the currency notes that were unearthed.
Protesters said they had found 17,850,000 Sri Lankan Rupees at the President’s official residence on Sunday when they stormed into the mansion after breaking the barricades.
They have handed over the cash to the local police.
Hundreds of anti-government protesters on Saturday stormed into Rajapaksa’s residence in central Colombo’s high-security Fort area after breaking the barricades, as they demanded his resignation over the island nation’s worst economic crisis in recent memory. Another group of protesters entered the private residence of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and set it on fire.
The President’s whereabouts is still not known. His only communication outside since the protesters stormed into the city has been with the Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, who announced late Saturday night that the President would resign on Wednesday. President Rajapaksa informed the Speaker about this decision to quit after Abeywardena wrote to him seeking his resignation following the all-party meeting of leaders held Saturday evening.
The Speaker would become the acting President in the absence of both the President and the Prime Minister.
Later, an election among MPs must happen to elect a new President. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has also offered to resign.
In May, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s elder brother and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had to quit in the face of massive anti-government protests.
The Rajapaksa brothers, Mahinda and Gotabaya, were hailed by many in Sri Lanka as heroes for winning the civil war against the LTTE but they are now blamed for the country’s worst economic crisis.
The expected exit of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Wednesday and the resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister in May is a dramatic fall from grace for a powerful family that has dominated Sri Lankan politics for more than a decade.
Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million people, is under the grip of an unprecedented economic turmoil, the worst in seven decades, crippled by an acute shortage of foreign exchange that has left it struggling to pay for essential imports of fuel, and other essentials.
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.
SL Police arrest three persons for setting fire to PM’s private residence
Colombo, Jul 10 (PTI): Sri Lankan police on Sunday arrested three people for setting Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s private residence here on fire a day earlier, which caused extensive destruction of the property, media reports said. A group of irate protesters on Saturday night entered Wickremesinghe’s private residence at Cambridge Place and set it on fire, inflicting extensive damage to the property and damaging a luxury sedan, amid massive anti-government protests.
A video released by Daily Mirror newspaper on Twitter, which showed grim visuals of Wickremesinghe’s charred residence and a damaged sedan. Paintings and other artworks were strewn across the house and the compound. Among those arrested include a 19-year-old Mount Lavinia resident and two residents of Galle, aged 24 and 28 respectively, web portal Colombo Page reported, quoting the Police Spokesman SSP Nihal Talduwa.
More arrests are on the anvil, as the police have widened their scope of investigations, he said.
Talduwa said the suspects are currently in the custody of Colpetty Police, and will be produced in court later on Sunday, web portal Lanka First reported.
The residence was replete with a rare collection of books and old Buddha statues, most of which Wickremesinghe had inherited, the Colombo Page report said, quoting a spokesperson of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Wickremesinghe and his spouse Professor Maithrie Wickremesinghe stayed in this residence, the report said.
The incident came hours after Wickremesinghe offered to resign to make way for an all-party government.
Embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has also offered to resign on July 13.
Hours before his decision, a huge mob broke the police cordon and entered the Presidential House.