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Protests intensify in Sri Lanka as President Rajapaksa flees country, appoints PM Wickremesinghe as acting president

Protests intensify in Sri Lanka as President Rajapaksa flees country, appoints PM Wickremesinghe as acting president

The ongoing Sri Lankan crisis does not seem to nearing its end, at least anytime soon. Protests in the island nation — which is engulfed in history’s worst financial crisis ever — intensified as reports confirmed current President Rajapaksa has fled the country. Protestors and general population has held him accountable for the country’s current financial crisis, which has left millions without food, water and fuel.

On Saturday, thousands of protestors stormed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s official residence in Colombo. They then set Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s house on fire. The President left the home on Friday, and therefore was not inside when the demonstration took place. Post this, both leaders have announced that they will be stepping down. President Rajapaksa will resign on July 13. In celebration of this decision, citizens across the country burst fireworks.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, Sri Lanka is facing the worst economic crisis since its independence. Sri Lankans are struggling to survive under severe inflation, which hit 54.6% last month. Rationing of petrol, government debt, and a ban on importing chemical fertilisers has left the country’s economy in shambles. Ongoing protests across Sri Lanka had so far been peaceful. Protestors demanded that the government step down due to their mismanagement of the crisis.

The president has to resign, the prime minister has to resign and the government has to go, Reuters quoted playwright Ruwanthie de Chickera.

The crowd of protestors broke past the barricades of the residence and ransacked it. They destroyed furniture, and some even jumped into the swimming pool. The police fired shots in the air, but could not stop protestors from breaking into the home. Since then, Sri Lankan citizens have been paying visits to the presidential home out of curiosity. The disparity that they have observed is striking. “They enjoyed super luxury while we suffered. We were hoodwinked. I wanted my kids and grandkids to see the luxurious lifestyles they were enjoying,” B.M. Chandrawathi, a 61-year-old handkerchief seller told Reuters

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“The decision to step down on 13 July was taken to ensure a peaceful handover of power,” Reuters quoted the speaker of the parliament, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena. “I therefore request the public to respect the law and maintain peace.” He further stated that an all-party interim government will take over once the President and PM step down.

A hospital official told Reuters that 45 injured people came in on Saturday, but no one has reported any deaths due to the incident so far. President Rajapaksa has not made a public appearance or a direct statement since.

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