Colombo, Sri Lanka – President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has agreed to resign in the coming days, the speaker of Sri Lanka’s parliament said on a volatile Saturday that saw the prime minister call for his resignation and protesters angry at the nation’s dire cause besiege the homes of both leaders. Economic crisis.
Speaker Mahinda Yappa Abeywardena said that Rajapaksa said that the leaders of Parliament had met Rajapaksa and decided to demand his resignation and the President had agreed to that. However, Rajapaksa will stay until Wednesday to ensure a smooth transition of power, Abeywardena added.
“He asked me to announce to the country that he will step down on Wednesday the 13th because there is a need to hand over power peacefully,” Abeywardhana said.
“Therefore, there is no need for further chaos in the country and I appeal to all for the sake of the country to maintain peace for a smooth transition,” the Speaker continued.
Opposition MP Raoob Hakeem said a consensus had been reached for the Speaker of Parliament to take over as interim president and form an interim government.
Demonstrators flocked to his fortified residence in Colombo hours after the president announced his resignation. Video footage shows people happily swimming in a garden pond. Some lay on beds in the house, others drank tea, and issued statements from the conference room demanding that both Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe leave.
It was not clear whether Rajapakse was there at the time, and government spokesman Mohan Samaranayake said he had no information about the president’s movements.
Wickremesinghe’s office said protesters also broke into the Prime Minister’s private residence and set it on fire. It was not immediately clear if he was present when the break-in took place.
Hours earlier, Wickremesinghe had announced his own resignation. But he said he would not step down until a new government was formed, angering protesters who demanded his immediate departure.
“Today there is a fuel crisis in this country, food shortage, the head of the World Food Program has come here, many issues have to be discussed with the International Monetary Fund,” Wickramasinghe said.
Wickremesinghe said he suggested to the President to form an all-party government, but did not say anything about Rajapaksa’s whereabouts. The opposition parties were discussing the formation of a new government in Parliament.
Rajapakse appointed Wickremesinghe prime minister in May, hoping the career politician would use his diplomacy and connections to revive the slumping economy. But with increasing shortages of fuel, medicine and cooking gas, people’s patience wore thin.
The country is relying on help from India and other countries as leaders try to negotiate a bailout with the International Monetary Fund.
Months of protests have all but shattered the ruling Rajapaksa political dynasty Sri Lanka For most of the past two decades, however, it has been accused by opponents of dragging the country into chaos through allegations of poor governance and corruption. The president’s older brother resigned as prime minister in May after violent protests saw him seek safety at a naval base.
Thousands of protesters poured into the capital from the suburbs on Saturday after police lifted an overnight curfew condemned as illegal by lawyers and opposition politicians. With fuel supplies scarce, many people crowded into buses and trains, while others traveled on bicycles and cattle.
At the president’s waterfront office, security personnel tried in vain to stop protesters who pushed through fences to run across the lawns and into the colonial-era building.
At least 34 people, including two police officers, were injured in the clash. Two of the injured are in a critical condition, while others have minor injuries, an official at the Colombo National Hospital said.
Privately-owned Sirasa TV reported that at least six staff members, including four reporters, were hospitalized after being assaulted by police while covering the protest at the Prime Minister’s residence.
The Sri Lankan Medical Council, the country’s top professional body, has warned that hospitals are operating with minimal resources and cannot handle the mass casualties caused by the unrest.
Protesters and religious leaders say Rajapaksa has lost his mandate and it is time for him to go.
“His claim that he was voted in by Sinhalese Buddhists is now invalid,” said Rev. Omalbe Sobitha, a prominent Buddhist leader. He urged Parliament to convene immediately to elect an interim president.
Last month, Wickramasinghe had said that the country’s economy had collapsed and negotiations with the International Monetary Fund were complicated. Sri Lanka was now a bankrupt country.
Sri Lanka announced in April that it was suspending foreign debt repayments due to a shortage of foreign currency. Its total external debt is $51 billion, of which $28 billion is due to be repaid by the end of 2027.
US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung on Friday urged people to protest peacefully and called on the military and police to “provide space and security for peaceful protesters”.
“Confusion and power will not fix the economy or bring Sri Lankans the political stability they need right now,” Chung tweeted.
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