COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Saturday as his home was occupied by protesters, his powerful family was at large, and the country he once controlled rebelled against him, according to the country’s top lawmaker. Agree to resign.
Mr Rajapaksa’s apparent decision to step down was the culmination of months of public pressure and protests. Thousands of people braved a police curfew, fuel shortages and suspension of public trains to the capital Colombo on Saturday to express their anger at the government’s inability to address a serious economic crisis.
Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, the speaker of parliament and an ally of the president, said Rajapaksa agreed that he will take office on July 13 after the country’s top political leader urged him to step down on Saturday. Resign, “to ensure a peaceful transition of power”. There has been no direct confirmation of Mr Rajapaksa’s possible resignation, and he has been in hiding and has ignored previous calls to leave.
Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange reserves used to import essentials such as fuel and medicines have run out, and the United Nations has warned that more than a quarter of Sri Lanka’s 21 million people are at risk of food shortages. Protesters blame the suffering of the Rajapaksa people, who increasingly run the government like a family business.
The country’s economic downturn has been staged as high energy prices and food inflation plague much of the world. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions have sent energy prices skyrocketing, while global food supply chains are shrinking under pressure and demand.
Unrest in Sri Lanka has begun to reshape the geopolitical landscape of the region, the island nation of 22 million people long seen as a strategic spoil, as longtime rivals China and India vie for influence.
The rise of the Rajapaksa coincides with China becoming a lender.The family took out large loans from Chinese banks for vanity construction projects with questionable economic logic, including A port project in Hambantota This has plunged the country into desperate debt. However, in recent months, as the economy collapsed and Chinese aid has been lacking, Sri Lanka has relied on India for credit lines and financial assistance.
In Sri Lanka, daily life has become more severe in recent weeks, with extreme shortages of fuel and essential medicines. Citizens line up at gas stations, often in vain. Since the crisis began, local news media have reported at least 15 deaths in fuel lines from heatstroke and other causes.
Saturday’s march in Colombo was the largest in months of protests, including about 100 days of ongoing protest camps outside the president’s office.
Police used tear gas and water cannons on protesters and fired into the air to try to disperse them, injuring at least 42 people. But the numbers were so numerous that protesters quickly burst through the doors of the presidential residence and the presidential secretariat.
Videos on social media showed protesters jumping into the swimming pool at Mr Rajapaksa’s residence, resting in bedrooms and frying snacks in the presidential kitchen.
“I’m here today to send the president home,” said Wasantha Kiruwaththuduwa, 50, who walked 10 miles to join the protest. “Now the president must resign. If he wants peace to prevail, he must step down.”
Mr Rajapaksa’s whereabouts are unknown as the government appears to be in complete disarray. For months, he has been manipulating wildly to stay in power for at least the remaining two years of his turn. Now, he is on the verge of stepping down, which will forever mark the legacy of his powerful family.
As night fell, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe announced his resignation, opening the way for an “all-party government”. gentlemen. WickremesingheThe veteran politician, a six-time prime minister, is trying to raise financial aid from allies and work with the International Monetary Fund to restructure the country’s huge foreign debt.
Protesters entered his private home late on Saturday and set it on fire, Prime Minister spokesman Dinouk Colombage said, adding that Mr Wickremesinghe was not at home at the time.
The political crisis escalated earlier this year as the devastating consequences of government mismanagement of the economy began to be more severe than ever, with fuel running out and food shortages.
One of Mr Rajapaksa’s misguided policies was the drastic tax cuts when he took office in 2019, which led to shrinking government revenue and a sudden Ban on fertilizers Pushed the country to switch to organic farming, which reduced harvests. The pandemic lockdown will only further damage the economy, depriving it of vital tourism revenue.
As protests intensified in the spring, Mr Rajapaksa sought to offer a gradual compromise by forcing some members of the cabinet to resign while placing others in new roles.
But protesters want the entire government to step down, and the president is trying to persuade his older brother and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to give up his seat.
Mahinda Rajapaksa was forced into prime minister in May, but only after a large group of his supporters walked out of his residence and attacked the camp of peaceful protesters.Conflict sparked a wave Violence and vandalism across the country, stoking fears that the country could slip into outright anarchy. The Prime Minister fled to the military base in the middle of the night.
If the president does step down, it would mark another dramatic shift in a dynasty of family power so decisive in Sri Lankan affairs.
During his ten years as president, from 2005 to 2015, Mahinda Rajapaksa put an end to the country’s three-year civil war by crushing a Tamil Tiger rebellion with brutal military force. Raised allegations of widespread human rights violations. His brother Gotabaya then served as his powerful defense minister.
The Rajapaksa briefly quit government but returned to power in 2019.That campaign mixed nationalist calls for Sri Lanka’s Buddhist majority Sinhalese with portraying Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the strongmen the country needs afterward deadly terrorist attack Easter Sunday a few months before the election.
Soon after, he brought his older brother Mahinda back to the government as prime minister and handed the key position to several other family members.
The economic crisis is a major setback for the country, which is still grappling with Legacy of a bloody three-year civil war. This conflict between the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels ended in 2009, who started discriminating against the ethnic minority Tamil. But many of its root causes remain, and the Rajapaksa family continues to cater to the majority Buddhist Sinhalese.
Skandha Gunasekara Reported from Colombo, and Mujib Machar from New Delhi.