Protesters stormed the residence of Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Saturday, forcing the embattled leader to flee as escalating demonstrations over a deep economic crisis threatened to push the country’s government to the brink of collapse.
Sri LankaIt is currently going through one of its worst economic crises. After running out of foreign reserves, it has been unable to import fuel, food, and medicine, resulting in a drastic drop in living standards.
The island of 22mn In default of foreign debt repaymentsIn May, the country became the first in Asia-Pacific to do this in over two decades.
Tens of thousands of protestors marched through central Colombo on Saturday to demand Rajapaksa’s resignation. The crowds overwhelmed security forces, which had deployed tear gas and water cannon, and stormed the President’s House and the Presidential Secretariat, his office.
Local media reported Rajapaksa was evacuated from his home on Friday due to unrest. His location was not known. Videos on social media showed protesters swimming in the president’s pool after occupying the building.
The confrontation on Saturday was the most dramatic escalation of the demonstrations since May, when clashes between pro and anti-government protesters prompted prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya’s brother, to resign.
Gotabaya has Defiantly defied all calls to step downRanil Wickremesinghe was appointed as the new prime minister and vowed to lead the country through the crisis.
But Saturday’s protests marked a new low for the president, a former military leader whose hold on power has become increasingly precarious. Wickremesinghe called a meeting of party leaders to address the crisis and asked that parliament reconvene.
Sri Lanka is in negotiations with the IMF for a multibillion dollar bailout package. Negotiations on debt-restructuringWith its creditors which include private bondholders, countries such as China, Japan, India and other developing nations. Sri Lanka owes foreign debt in excess of $50 billion.
Last month, an IMF team visited Colombo but was unable to agree on a rescue plan.
Sri Lankans who had enjoyed the best living standards in South Asia have suffered a severe decline in their situation. In order to save energy for essential services, the country banned private vehicles from fuelling last month.
Daily blackouts can last hours and disrupt businesses’ operations. Schools have been closed by authorities. Numerous governments have warned their citizens to avoid the country. Tourist disaster, one of Sri Lanka’s most important sources of foreign currency.
Rajapaksa, who hails from one of Sri Lanka’s most powerful political dynasties, was elected in 2019. Together with his brother Mahinda, who served as president between 2005 and 2015, Gotabaya helped bring an end to the island’s brutal civil war in 2009 after leading a military campaign to crush the Tamil Tiger rebels.