Protestors gather inside the compound of Sri Lanka’s Presidential Palace in Colombo on July 9, 2022. – Sri Lanka’s beleaguered President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled his official residence in Colombo, a top defence source told AFP, before protesters gathered to demand his resignation stormed the compound.
AFP via Getty Images
Thousands of protesters in Sri Lanka’s commercial capital Colombo stormed the president’s official residence and his secretariat on Saturday amid months of mounting public anger over the country’s worst economic crisis in seven decades.
Some protesters, holding Sri Lankan flags and helmets, broke into the president’s residence, video footage from local TV news NewsFirst channel showed.
Thousands of protesters also broke open the gates of the sea-front presidential secretariat, which has been the site of a sit-in protest for months, and entered the premises, TV footage showed.
Military personnel and police at both locations were unable to hold back the crowd, as they chanted slogans asking President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to step down.
Two defense ministry sources said President Rajapaksa was removed from the official residence on Friday for his safety ahead of the planned rally over the weekend.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Saturday summoned an emergency party leaders meeting to discuss the situation and come to a swift resolution, his office said in a statement.
He has also requested the speaker to summon parliament, the statement said.
Wickremesinghe has also been moved to a secure location, a government source told Reuters.
People march in Colombo on July 9, 2022 to protest the ongoing economic crisis in Sri Lanka.
Akila Jayawardana | NurPhoto via Getty Images
A Facebook livestream from inside the president’s house showed hundreds of protesters, some draped in flags, packing into rooms and corridors, shouting slogan’s against Rajapaksa.
Hundreds also milled about on the grounds outside the colonial-era white-washed building. No security officials were visible.
At least 21 people, including two police were injured and hospitalised in the ongoing protests, hospital sources told Reuters.
The island of 22 million people is struggling under a severe foreign exchange shortage that has limited essential imports of fuel, food and medicine, plunging it into the worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.
The crisis comes after COVID-19 hammered the tourism-reliant economy and slashed remittances from overseas workers, and has been compounded by the build-up of huge government debt, rising oil prices and a ban on the import of chemical fertilisers last year that devastated agriculture.
Many blame the country’s decline on President Rajapaksa. Largely peaceful protests since March have demanded his resignation.
Thousands of people swarmed into Colombo’s government district, shouting slogans against the president and dismantling several police barricades to reach Rajapaksa’s house, a Reuters witness said.
Police fired shots in the air but were unable to stop the angry crowd from surrounding the presidential residence, the witness said.
Reuters could not immediately confirm the president’s whereabouts.
Despite a severe…