Sri Lankan PM to Resign as Protesters Storm Presidential Palace

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Protesters in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo stormed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s palace on Saturday, demanding that Rajapaska, who came to power in late 2019, resign. Sri Lankan authorities say he has been moved to a safe location. The Sri Lankan prime minister, meanwhile, has announced that he will step down.

“He is still the president, he is being protected by a military unit,” one senior source inside of the Sri Lankan military told AFP.

Thousands of protesters from all over the country converged on the capital to protest the myriad economic problems plaguing the small island nation, which include uncontrolled inflation and shortages.

The demonstrators powered through a heavy police presence — which used tear gas and barricades to try to repel the protesters — to make their way into the palace, where they were filmed enjoying Rajapaksa’s swimming pool.

Rajapaksa, who previously served as defense secretary under his older brother’s administration from 2005–2015, has attempted to suppress the building anger against him for months. In May, security forces were “ordered to shoot on sight anyone looting public property or causing harm to life.” Rajapaksa has also granted special powers to both military and police forces, allowing them to more easily arrest and detain protesters.

While Rajapaksa has not indicated that he will step aside, his prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, has announced on Twitter that to “ensure the continuation of the Government including the safety of all citizens I accept the best recommendation of the Party Leaders today, to make way for an All-Party Government. To facilitate this I will resign as Prime Minister.”

Wickremesinghe has spent less than two months in office, having been appointed after Rajapaksa’s brother, Mahinda, resigned under pressure in May.

 

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