Sunday, December 04, 2022

Sri Lanka: Protesters storm home and presidential office

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka ( Associated Press) – Protesters calling for the resignation of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa forced their way into his official residence and office on Saturday, according to local television reports. Thousands of people took to the streets in the capital to protest against the country’s worst economic crisis in recent times.

It was unclear whether Rajapaksa was at his Colombo residence, but cellphone footage posted online showed crowds at the fortified house and on grounds outside.

A government spokesperson, Mohana Samaranayake, said she had no information on whether Rajapaksa had left the residence.

Hundreds of protesters, some carrying national flags, also entered the president’s office in a nearby building, according to television footage. Protesters blame Rajapaksa for the economic hardship and have been camped outside his building for three months to demand his resignation.

Footage on social media showed hundreds of protesters running to the president’s house and chanting “I’m going home”, using the president’s nickname. Outside the building, collapsed barricades could be seen.

In the president’s office, security personnel tried to stop people who broke through the fences and broke into the colonial-era parliament building, which has been converted into the president’s office.

At least 34 people, including two police officers, were injured in clashes as protesters tried to enter the residence. Two of the injured were in serious condition, while the others suffered minor injuries, according to an official at the Colombo National Hospital who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Thousands of people arrived in the suburbs of the capital Colombo on Saturday after police lifted the curfew overnight.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said last month that the country’s economy had collapsed. The government’s negotiations with the International Monetary Fund have been complex because it has now entered negotiations as a failed state.

Sri Lanka announced in April that it would suspend international debt payments due to lack of foreign exchange. Its external debt is 51 billion dollars, of which it must pay 28 billion by the end of 2027.

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