Embattled president to resign on July 13, the announcement came after a tumultuous day in which protesters stormed his residence and set the prime minister’s home on fire.
SRI LANKA, Sun. July 10 2022 (Aljazeera)
Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has agreed to step down next week, an official said, after protesters stormed the presidential palace and set fire to the prime minister’s home to vent their anger over a worsening economic crisis.
Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said in a televised statement on Saturday that Rajapaksa has agreed to resign on July 13.
“The decision to step down on July 13 was taken to ensure a peaceful handover of power,” Abeywardena said.
“I therefore request the public to respect the law and maintain peace.”
The news of the president’s decision triggered an eruption of celebratory fireworks in parts of the capital, Colombo.
“Today is independence day for me being born in this nation, not 1948, because today we have fought for our freedom from the tyranny and the scoundrels and greedy politicians who have run our nation to ground zero,” one protester told Al Jazeera.
Earlier in the day, Rajapaksa was evacuated from the presidential palace in Colombo, before thousands of protesters stormed the building, demanding his resignation.
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 widely circulated on social media.
Prime minister to resign, too
Protesters later broke into the home of Wickremesinghe and set it on fire. Video footage on local news channels showed a huge fire and smoke coming from Wickremesinghe’s private home in an affluent Colombo neighbourhood. His office said protesters had started the fire.
There were no immediate reports of injuries in the blaze. Wickremesinghe had moved to a secure location earlier in the day, a government source told the Reuters news agency.
Wickremesinghe has also announced his own impending resignation but said he would not step down until a new government is formed.
“Today in this country we have a fuel crisis, a food shortage, we have the head of the World Food Programme coming here and we have several matters to discuss with the IMF,” Wickremesinghe said. “Therefore, if this government leaves, there should be another government.”
Wickremesinghe said he suggested to the president to have an all-party government, but did not say anything about Rajapaksa’s whereabouts.
Thyagi Ruwanpathirana, a researcher at Amnesty International, told Al Jazeera that Sri Lanka will “not come out of this crisis for some time”.
“There is a lot of wait and watch, and that is affecting the people,” she said.
“We have not had fuel for days … Just imagine running out of fuel. People cant get to work. Kids can’t get to school. The whole economy is at a standstill,” she said from Colombo.
Saturday’s protest began with thousands converging on Colombo’s Galle Face Green square in one of the biggest anti-government protests the crisis-hit island has seen this year. Soldiers and police at the president’s official residence, which is located near the protest site, were unable to hold back the crowd calling for Rajapaksa’s resignation.
In all, at least 39 people, including two police officers were injured and hospitalised amid the protests, hospital sources told Reuters.
Reporting from Colombo, Al Jazeera’s Minelle Fernandez said tens of thousands of protesters had arrived in Colombo for the protests.
“People stormed railway stations and literally forced employees to put them on trains and bring them to Colombo,” she said. “They say they are taking their country back.”
Full article can be viewed at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/7/9/sri-lanka-protesters-storm-president-house-demanding-resignation
First published by Aljazeera