Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa flees official residence amid protests
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa allegedly abandoned his official residence in Colombo on Saturday as demonstrators broke into the house, AFP reported. The incidents came just a few hours after Sri Lankan police used force and tear gas to disperse protesters in the national capital. People had assembled to hold a protest march against the government amid the prolonged economic crisis.
- Sri Lanka has been reeling under the worst economic crisis since independence, stemming from a foreign exchange crisis that led to shortages of essential supplies for the last several months.
- The new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who took over in May also failed to bring the county out of the ongoing crisis despite promising to take some drastic steps to revive the economy.
On Saturday, thousands of protesters stormed Colombo to express their outrage at the government's failure to avert the economic disaster. They arrived by different means of transport all across the country. The island country of over 22 million population was driven into the worst financial crisis people following a severe shortage of foreign exchange, which has limited critical imports of fuel, food, and medication.
As per reports, the protesters clashed with the police outside the President's house. They also breached barricades and stormed the building in the capital city of Colombo. Meanwhile, officials in Sri Lanka's Defense Ministry told Reuters that President Rajapaksa was removed from the official premises on Friday for his safety ahead of the planned rally over the weekend.
While protests were going on across Colomba, some social media users live-streamed the storming of people into President's house on Facebook. Video clips showed people shouting slogans against Rajapaksha as they marched through rooms and corridors of the palatial building. Several people walked around on the grounds outside the colonial-era building with no security officials in sight.
#aragalaya protestors inside the residence of the #President. #ProtestLK #aragalaya #EconomicCrisisLK #CountryToColombo #GotaGoGama #OccupyGalleFace #GoHomeGota #occupypresidentshouse pic.twitter.com/bfTbqQ39wc— EconomyNext (@Economynext) July 9, 2022
As per officials, at least 21 people, including two police personnel were injured in the clashes. They said the injured persons had been admitted to the nearby hospitals for treatment. Local news outlets including a leading news channel News First showed some protesters, holding Sri Lankan flags and helmets, breaking into the president's residence, as per a report on Reuters.
People have been demanding Rajapaksa's resignation since March. The country has been witnessing chaos since then especially after it was revealed that it is drifting into a serious economic crisis. In the following months, the country's fuel prices skyrocketed due to the government's inability to receive cargoes. As the situation worsened, schools were shut and petrol, diesel, and cooking fuel were rationed.