Thousands of protesters entered the capital, Colombo, and swarmed into President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s fortified residence. Video images showed jubilant crowds splashing in the garden pool, lying on beds and using their cellphone cameras to capture the moment. Some made tea, while others issued statements from a conference room demanding that the president and prime minister go.
It was not clear if Rajapaksa was there at the time, and government spokesman said he had no information about the president’s movements. Protesters later broke into the prime minister’s private residence and set it on fire. It wasn’t immediately clear if he was there when the incursion happened. The police attempted to thwart protests with a curfew, then lifted it as lawyers and opposition politicians denounced it as illegal.
U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung on Friday asked people to protest peacefully and called for the military and police “to grant peaceful protesters the space and security to do so,” reported AP.
“Chaos & force will not fix the economy or bring the political stability that Sri Lankans need right now,” Chung tweeted.
Pressure on both men grew as the economic meltdown set off acute shortages of essential items, leaving people struggling to buy food, fuel and other necessities.
They island reportedly agreed to resign Saturday after the country’s most chaotic day in months of political turmoil, with protesters storming both officials’ homes and setting fire to one of the buildings in a rage over the nation’s severe economic crisis.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he will leave office once a new government is in place, and hours later the speaker of Parliament said President Rajapaksa would step down Wednesday.
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Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said in a televised statement that he informed Rajapaksa that parliamentary leaders had met and decided to request he leave office, and the president agreed. However, Rajapaksa will remain temporarily to ensure a smooth transfer of power, Abeywardena added.
“He asked me to inform the country that he will make his resignation on Wednesday the 13th, because there is a need to hand over power peacefully,” Abeywardena said.
“Therefore there is no need for further disturbances in the country, and I urge everyone for the sake of the country to maintain peace to enable a smooth transition,” the speaker continued.