Sri Lanka protesters break into President’s House as thousands rally

“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,” Wickremesinghe wrote on Twitter.

His statement comes after a meeting of party leaders, held by Sri Lanka’s parliament speaker, agreed to ask both the president and prime minister to resign per an “overwhelming request,” Sri Lankan lawmaker Rauff Hakeem tweeted on Saturday.

Wickremesinghe would have to first wait until Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigns, and a new government is in place. He will remain in office until then.

Anger reached unprecedented levels in the South Asian nation of 22 million on Saturday, as more than 100,000 people amassed outside Rajapaksa’s residence, calling for his resignation.

Video broadcast on Sri Lankan television and on social media showed the protesters enter President’s House — Rajapaksa’s office and residence in the commercial capital — after breaking through security cordons placed by police. Images show demonstrators inside the building and hanging banners from the balcony, as well as swimming in the residence’s pool.

Rajapaksa is not at the site and has been moved elsewhere, security officials told CNN. It is unclear how many security personnel are present at the location.

Protesters then also breached Wickremesinghe’s official residence, known as Temple Trees, according to local media reports, while video of protesters entering the gates to Wickremesinghe’s residence circulated on social media on Saturday.

Wickremesinghe had been earlier moved to a secure location, his office confirmed.

Rajapaksa is not at his official residence, where protesters are pictured.
It is unclear how many security personnel are at the Sri Lankan leader's official residence, where more than 100,000 amassed outside, police said.
Protesters enter the pool in the presidential house in Sri Lanka.

At least 31 people, including two police officers, have been injured in the protests and are receiving treatment, according to the National Hospital of Sri Lanka (NHSL). Two of the injured are in critical condition, according to police.

Earlier Saturday, Wickremesinghe called an emergency meeting of party leaders to discuss the current situation and come to a resolution, his office said. He also asked the Speaker of Parliament to summon MPs.

Sri Lanka is suffering its worst financial crisis in recent history, leaving millions struggling to buy food, medicine and fuel.

Demonstrators run from tear gas used by police during a protest demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa near the president's residence in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Saturday.

A police curfew that was earlier imposed in several police divisions in the Western Province of Sri Lanka was lifted on Saturday. Several politicians and the Bar Association in Sri Lanka referred to the curfew as being “illegal,” saying there had been no instances of violence to justify imposing the measure.

In a statement Saturday, the Bar Association called on Rajapaksa to “consider whether he can continue” in light of the protesters storming the President’s House. It also urged the government and MPs “to immediately ensure that political stability of the nation is secured forthwith. There should be no delay in ensuring such transition.”

Tens of thousands have taken to the streets in recent months, calling for the country’s leaders to resign over accusations of economic mismanagement.

In several major cities, including Colombo, hundreds are forced to queue for hours to buy fuel, sometimes clashing with police and the military as they wait.

Images from Colombo paint a chaotic scene, with pictures showing demonstrators running from tear gas, and clashing with police in body armor.

Heated scuffles erupted Saturday between police and angry protesters, as troops used tear gas and water cannons to push back demonstrators who breached security barriers.

Schools have been suspended and fuel has been limited to essential services. Patients are unable to travel to hospitals due to the fuel shortage and food prices are soaring.

Trains have reduced in frequency, forcing travelers to squeeze into compartments and even sit precariously on top of them as they commute to work.

Wickremesinghe said the country had entered talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to revive the country’s economy.

On Tuesday, he told parliament that talks with the IMF were “difficult” as they entered the discussion as a “bankrupt” country, rather than a developing one.

CNN’s Irene Nasser contributed reporting.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *