Sri Lanka protesters storm President’s House, demand resignation

  July 09, 2022   News ID 6815
Sri Lanka protesters storm President’s House, demand resignation
Thousands storm the president’s official residence in Colombo in one of the largest anti-government marches in the country this year.

Thousands of protesters in Sri Lanka have broken through police barricades and stormed the president’s residence and nearby office in one of the largest anti-government marches in the crisis-hit country this year.

The protesters, many clad in black and holding Sri Lankan flags, broke into President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s residence in capital Colombo, Al Jazeera TV showed on Saturday.

A Facebook livestream from inside the president’s house showed hundreds of protesters packing into rooms and corridors, shouting slogans against the beleaguered 73-year-old leader.

Footage of protesters standing and some bathing in the swimming pool inside the president’s home was widely circulated on social media.

Hundreds also milled about on the grounds outside the colonial-era white-washed building. No security officials were visible.

Thousands of protesters also broke open the gates of the sea-front presidential secretariat and the finance ministry, which has been the site of a sit-in protest for months, and entered the premises, TV footage showed.

Military personnel and police at both locations were unable to hold back the crowd, as they chanted slogans asking Rajapaksa to step down.

Earlier, troops fired in the air to prevent angry crowds from overrunning the President’s House, reports said, adding the president has been moved to a secure but undisclosed location.

PM calls emergency meet

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has called an emergency meeting of political party leaders amid growing anger over the government’s handling of an economic crisis.

Wickremesinghe also requested the speaker to summon parliament, a statement from the prime minister’s office said.

Wickremesinghe has also been moved to a secure location, a government source told Reuters news agency.

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

Reporting from Colombo, Al Jazeera’s Minelle Fernandez said the protesters are adamant the president must go.

“The authorities seem to have jammed the data signals. We hear that some of the protesters are sampling the swimming pool at the president’s residence,” she said.

“People are absolutely fed up without food, gas or fuel. They are saying enough is enough. We want our lives and futures back,” she added.

Many in the island nation of 22 million people blame the country’s decline on Rajapaksa. Largely peaceful protests since March have demanded his resignation.

“I came here to chase away the president. The situation in the country is not good. He has to go for our country to come out of this abyss,” Gihan Roshan, 38, told Al Jazeera.

Sri Lanka is struggling under a severe foreign exchange shortage that has limited essential imports of fuel, food and medicine, plunging it into the worst financial turmoil in 70 years.

Months of protests have nearly dismantled 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, and two other brothers and a nephew quit their cabinet posts earlier.

Wickremesinghe took over as prime minister in May and protests temporarily waned in the hope he could find cash for the country’s urgent needs.

But people now want him to resign as well, saying he has failed to fulfil his promises. One demonstrator held the Sri Lankan flag in one hand and a placard in the other that read: “Pissu Gota, Pissu Ranil” (Insane Gota, Insane Ranil) in Sinhalese (Source: ALJAZEERA).

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