Opposition leaders in Sri Lanka are meeting on Sunday in a bid to form a new government after the nation’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe agreed to step down.
This comes as protesters in Colombo stormed the residences of both leaders on Saturday amid the country’s worst economic crisis in nearly 80 years.
Months of demonstrations have all but dismantled the Rajapaksa political dynasty, which has ruled Sri Lanka for most of the past two decades
Demonstrators are calling for an all-party government and are blaming the country’s leaders for prompting the worst financial crisis the country has seen since Word War II.
The whereabouts of the President are still unknown after he fled his mansion on Saturday. Anti-government took to social media and posted videos showing hundreds of people storming the colonial-style compound.
Protesters remained in the building overnight and continue to occupy his home. Live streams of demonstrators exploring the Presidents private chambers and swimming in his swimming pool were broadcasted on Saturday from inside the grounds.
Demonstrators say they discovered a large sum of cash within Rajapaksa’s home, a sum local media sources say has now been handed over to the authorities.
Parliamentary speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said in a televised statement late Saturday night that he informed Rajapaksa that parliamentary leaders had met and decided to request he leave office, and the president agreed. However, he added that Rajapaksa would remain temporarily to ensure a smooth transfer of power.
“He asked me to inform the country that he will make his resignation on Wednesday the 13th, because there is a need to hand over power peacefully,” Abeywardena said.
The speaker also took the opportunity to call for peace.
Under Sri Lankan law if both a president and prime minister resign, the parliamentary speaker can stand in as an interim president for a maximum of 30 days.
However, protesters say they will not leave the President’s home until both leaders officially leave their posts. While Prime Minister Wickremesinghe announced his own impending resignation, he said he would not step down until a new government is formed, angering protesters further who demanded his immediate departure.
“Today in this country we have a fuel crisis, a food shortage, we have the head of the World Food Program coming here and we have several matters to discuss with the IMF,” Wickremesinghe said. “Therefore, if this government leaves there should be another government.”
The Prime Minister who also serves as the country’s Finance Minister has just concluded a round of talks with the International Monetary Fund to address some financial issues.
This comes as the Prime Minister’s home was also targeted my protesters. Dozens of people entered his private residence and set the house on fire on Saturday. The police say they have now arrested three people who allegedly started the fire.
According to an official from the Colombo National Hospital, at least 34 people including two police officers were hurt in the protests and riots. Two are in critical condition, while others sustained minor injuries.
Source : Euro News