Colombo [Sri Lanka]: Sri Lankan protesters broke into Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s private residence and set it on fire, angered by the unprecedented economic crisis.
Just a few hours ago with the demand for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation, they stormed into the compound, tore down security cordons placed by police, took a dip in the swimming pool and romped through his kitchen and home. Several journalists were also attacked by the security forces after which more protestors gathered in the area, Daily Mirror reported.
Earlier, the police fired tear gas at the protesters but despite that, they entered his house and set the house on fire.
Meanwhile, Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) fire brigade said they were informed that the Prime Minister’s private residence in Colombo was set on fire and its teams were unable to reach the location due to the unrest, according to Daily Mirror.
Wickremesinghe, who was appointed as Prime Minister in May, has announced that he will resign from his post in order to ensure the continuation of the government and the safety of all the citizens.
Taking to Twitter, Wickremesinghe said, “To ensure the continuation of the Government including the safety of all citizens, I accept the best recommendation of the Party Leaders today, to make way for an All-Party Government. To facilitate this, I will resign as Prime Minister.”
Earlier, Sri Lankan Prime Minister said in a statement that he took this decision in view of the fact that island-wide fuel distribution is due to recommence this week, the World Food Program Director is due to visit the country this week and the Debt Sustainability report for the IMF is due to be finalised shortly.”
“So as to ensure the safety of the citizens, he is agreeable to this recommendation by the Opposition Party Leaders,” the statement reads.
Meanwhile, Sri Lankan MP Harsha de Silva said that the majority of party leaders had agreed on President and Prime Minister’s resignation and the Speaker to act as President for a maximum of 30 days. He further said that the leaders also agreed on the election of MP as President for the remaining term will be elected by the parliament.
“All party interim government to be appointed in the next few days,” he added.
Earlier, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe summoned an emergency Party Leaders meeting to discuss the situation and come to a swift resolution.
The Prime Minister is also requesting the Speaker to summon Parliament.
Lankan local publication Daily Mirror reported that several gunshots were heard being fired in the air and police unsuccessfully used tear gas to ward off protestors who surrounded the presidential residence. Two people have reportedly been injured.
Protestors have entered the President’s House, tweeted the Daily Mirror.
Sri Lanka’s police imposed a curfew in several police divisions in Western Province with effect from 9 pm local time Friday until further notice ahead of a planned protest today demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Strict action will be taken on those violating the curfew, the police said. The Sri Lankan publication said travelling through the areas where police curfew is in effect is completely prohibited and police had advised people to use other alternative routes.
The worsening economic situation in the country has led to increasing tensions and over the last few weeks, there were reports of several confrontations between individuals and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations where thousands of desperate members of the public have queued for hours and sometimes days. Police have used tear gas and water cannon at times in an unnecessary and disproportionate manner. On occasions, armed forces have also fired live ammunition.
Sri Lanka is suffering its worst economic crisis since gaining independence in 1948, which comes on the heels of successive waves of COVID-19, threatening to undo years of development progress and severely undermining the country’s ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The oil supply shortage has forced schools and government offices to close until further notice. Reduced domestic agricultural production, a lack of foreign exchange reserves, and local currency depreciation have fuelled the shortages. The economic crisis will push families into hunger and poverty – some for the first time – adding to the half a million people who the World Bank estimates have fallen below the poverty line because of the pandemic.