Sri Lanka woke on Sunday July 10 to a shocking news, as both its President and Prime Minister are set to step down after a huge number of nonconformists raged their homes in anger over the country’s devastating economic crisis.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has now consented to resign on July 13, the speaker of the country’s parliament announced late Saturday, following a turbulent day that saw protesters break into Rajapaksa’s true home in Colombo and sprinkle around in his pool.
The protesters also targeted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, setting ablaze his residential home on Fifth Lane, a wealthy area in the capital. Wickremesinghe later said he was ready to resign “to clear the way for an all-party government.”
The announcement triggered the protesters to celebrate by singing in the city and lighting firecrackers. They have been demanding Rajapaksa’s renunciation for quite a long time over his administration’s inability to address the country’s financial breakdown.
The economic turmoil has plunged the Indian Ocean island nation of 22 million into a dire humanitarian crisis, leaving millions struggling to buy food, medicine and fuel.
After months of largely peaceful protests, anger reached tipping point on Saturday, as more than 100,000 people massed outside Rajapaksa’s residence, calling for his resignation.
Video broadcast on Sri Lankan television and on social media showed the protesters enter the President’s House — Rajapaksa’s office and residence — after breaking through security cordons. Demonstrators went inside the whitewashed colonial-era building and hanged banners from the balcony.
Later on Saturday, live video streamed by local media showed Wickremesinghe’s home overwhelmed on fire as groups accumulated around.
Neither the President nor Prime Minister were at their homes when their buildings were penetrated. Both had been moved to tie down areas preceding the attacks, as per security officials.
Saturday’s drastic escalation of unrest could spell the end of the Rajapaksa family’s political dynasty, which has ruled Sri Lanka for most of the past two decades.
In a video statement late on Saturday, Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said Rajapaksa’s decision to step down “was taken to ensure a peaceful handover of power.”
If both Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa resign, under the Sri Lankan constitution, the speaker of parliament will serve as acting president for a maximum of 30 days. Meanwhile, parliament will elect a new president within 30 days from one of its members who will hold the office for the remaining two years of the current term.
Meanwhile, more than 55 individuals have been attacked in the fights, as per authorities of the National Hospital of Sri Lanka. The figure included three people with shot injuries. Among those harmed is a lawyer from eastern Sri Lanka.
A Sri Lankan television station said six of its journalists were also attacked late Saturday by the Sri Lanka Police Special Task Force outside the Prime Minister’s private residence.