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Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Sri Lanka crisis: Gotabaya Rajapaksa agrees to resign after protesters storm presidential palace – Nation World News

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s embattled president Gotabaya Rajapaksa said he would resign on Wednesday, hours after thousands of protesters stormed his official residence, blaming him for an unprecedented economic crisis that has brought the country to its knees.
After an emergency meeting, Parliament speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena asked Rajapaksa and PM Ranil Wickremesinghe to resign immediately to make way for an all-party government.
“To ensure a peaceful transition, the president has said he will step down on July 13,” Abeywardana said in a televised statement. Rajapaksa, who left the official residence on Friday as a precaution before protests planned for the weekend, appears to have gone underground. Wickremesinghe also offered to step down and form an all-party government.

Earlier in the day, in striking scenes, protesters demanding Rajapaksa’s resignation were seen crowding the rooms and corridors of the presidential palace, diving into the pool, helping themselves to food from the kitchen and occupying a four-poster bed.

Hundreds of people milled around the whitewashed colonial-era residence grounds, with few security guards in sight. Soon after, the Rajapaksa seaside office also fell into the hands of the protesters. As night fell, protesters broke into Wickremesinghe’s private home and set it on fire, his office said. The PM has been moved to a safe location.

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Firefighters try to put out a fire at the private residence of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Colombo ( Associated Press photo)

Nearly 40 people, including two police officers, were injured and hospitalized during the protests.

In your letter, abeywardena told Rajapaksa that party leaders wanted him and Wickremesinghe to resign immediately, Parliament to be convened within seven days to name an interim president, and name an interim all-party government under a new prime minister, commanding a majority in Parliament. It was also decided to call elections within a short period of time and install a new government.

The island nation of 22 million people is battling 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. 54.6% in June and should reach 70% in the coming months, has accumulated difficulties for the population.
Political instability could hamper Sri Lanka’s negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, which is seeking a $3 billion bailout, restructuring some of its external debt and raising funds from multilateral and bilateral sources to alleviate the dollar’s drought.
Many blame the country’s decline on Rajapaksa’s economic mismanagement and there have been months of largely peaceful protests demanding his resignation. Discontent has worsened in recent weeks as the cash-strapped country stopped receiving fuel shipments, forcing schools to close and gasoline and diesel rationing for essential services.

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