In response to months of growing public outrage over the nation’s worst economic crisis in seven decades, thousands of protestors stormed the president’s official mansion and his secretariat in Sri Lanka’s commercial city Colombo on Saturday.
According to video from the local TV news NewsFirst channel, several demonstrators burst into the president’s mansion while brandishing helmets and Sri Lankan flags.
TV footage revealed that thousands of people also forced open the gates of the finance ministry and the presidential secretariat, both of which are located on the coast and have been the scene of months-long sit-in protests.
Sri Lanka protesters just stormed their presidents residence due to the economic crisis! Did our media call this an insurrection? pic.twitter.com/QfFhBKsYXZ
— Wayne Dupree Media, LLC (@WayneDupreeShow) July 9, 2022
Both military and police officials at both places struggled to control the mob as they screamed for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign.
President Rajapaksa was reportedly taken from the official house on Friday for his safety in advance of the protest scheduled for the following day, according to two sources in the defense ministry.
According to a statement from his office, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe called an urgent meeting of party leaders on Saturday to examine the issue and find a quick solution.
According to the statement, he has asked the speaker to call a meeting of parliament.
According to a government source who spoke to Reuters, Wickremesinghe has also been relocated to a safe area.
A Facebook livestream from inside the presidential residence showed hundreds of demonstrators cramming into rooms and hallways while yelling anti-Rajapaksa slogans, some of whom were covered in flags.
Social media outlets extensively disseminated video footage of protesters standing and some swimming in the president’s swimming pool.
Hundreds of people were also milling about on the grounds outside the whitewashed colonial structure. There were no security personnel in sight.
According to hospital authorities, at least 39 people, including two police officers, were hurt during the protests and were taken to the hospital.
The 22 million-person island is experiencing its biggest economic crisis since gaining independence in 1948 as a result of a severe foreign exchange shortage that has restricted imports of gasoline, food, and medication.
High inflation, which reached a record 54.6 percent in June and is predicted to reach 70 percent in the upcoming months, has put the populace through misery.
Sri Lanka’s negotiations with the IMF for a $3 billion rescue, a restructuring of part of its foreign debt, and money-raising from multilateral and bilateral sources to address the dollar shortage could be hampered by political uncertainty.
After COVID-19 decimated the tourism-based economy and reduced remittances from foreign workers, the problem was exacerbated by the growth of enormous public debt, rising oil prices, and a prohibition on the import of chemical fertilizers last year that wreaked havoc on agriculture. In November of last year, the prohibition on fertilizers was lifted.
However, many attribute the nation’s economic woes to President Rajapaksa. Since March, mostly peaceful demonstrations have called for his resignation.
Thousands of protesters poured into Colombo’s government district, yelling anti-presidential chants and tearing down multiple police barricades to get to Rajapaksa’s home, according to a Reuters witness.
The witness claimed that despite police shooting rounds in the air, the enraged mob continued to surround the presidential palace.
The president’s whereabouts could not be immediately confirmed by Reuters.
Demonstrators from all over the country crammed into buses, trains, and trucks to travel to Colombo in protest of the government’s refusal to save people from financial disaster despite a severe fuel scarcity that has halted transportation services.
Since the cash-strapped nation ceased receiving fuel shipments, forcing school closures and rationing of gasoline and diesel for basic services, discontent has gotten worse.