Protesters sack presidential palace and burn down PM’s home
The President of Sri Lanka Gotabaya Rajapaksa has announced he will step down after protesters stormed his official residence and set the prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s house on fire, Saturday.
Rajapaksa vacated his official residence on Friday as a safety precaution ahead of the planned protests, two defence ministry sources said, footage on social media show him running toward a Sri Lankan Navy boat. Crowds had earlier overrun his official residence, lounging in its state rooms and jumping in his pool.
Protesters had converged on the capital, Colombo from all parts of the country due to rising food and fuel costs exacerbated by the sanctions on Russia.Some had even commandeered trains to get to the capital. Sri Lanka is suffering rampant inflation and is struggling to import food, fuel and medicine as it faces its worst economic crisis in 70 years.
The country has run out of foreign currency and has had to impose a ban on sales of petrol and diesel for private vehicles. Discontent has increased in recent weeks as the cash-strapped country stopped receiving fuel shipments, forcing school closures and rationing of petrol and diesel for essential services.
Speaker of Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said in a video statement that Rajapaksa had informed him that he would step down from his post next Wednesday.
“The decision to step down on 13 July was taken to ensure a peaceful handover of power,” Abeywardena said. “I therefore request the public to respect the law and maintain peace,” he said. The Speaker of Parliament then heads a transitional government.
One protester, Fiona Sirmana, who was demonstrating at the president’s house, said it was time “to get rid of the president and the prime minister and to have a new era for Sri Lanka”.
“I feel very, very sad that they didn’t go earlier because had they gone earlier there wouldn’t have been any destruction,” she told Reuters.
At least 39 people, including two police officers, were injured and hospitalised during the protests, hospital sources say
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