Protesters storm Sri Lankan President's house, PM summons emergency meeting
Colombo, July 9, 2022
Thousands of protesters stormed Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's residence in Colombo on Saturday demanding his government's resignation amidst mounting protests against the government in the face of an unprecedented economic crisis in the island-nation.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremmesinghe has summoned an emergency meeting with political party leaders to discuss the situation.
According to the Prime Minister's Office, the premier also has requested the Speaker to summon Parliament in an effort to find a solution to the crisis.
Meanwhile, 16 MPs of President Rajapaksa's Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party in a letter requested him to resign immediately and make way for a leader who could command the majority in Parliament to lead the country.
They stated that Rajapaksa should give an opportunity to a mature leader without corruption allegations to take over the country.
However, Rajapaksa has not announced anything and his whereabouts are not known.
Social media reports have indicated that a group in 20 VVIP vehicles were heading for the airport, while another group left in two ships belonging to the Sri Lanka Navy.
However who left in them remains unclear.
Religious leaders have also urged the President and the Prime Minister to resign immediately and allow the swift passage of power.
Lawyers have emphasized that President Rajapaksa himself has to decide what course of action he should take amidst the mounting public protests against him.
Representing the country's legal fraternity and sitting judges, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) said it calls upon the "President to consider whether he could continue to fulfil his obligations and the powers and duties as the President of Sri Lanka any longer".
They also urged the Prime Minster, Speaker, Cabinet and MPs to immediately ensure that political stability of the nation was secured forthwith and there should be no delay in ensuring such transition.
"We call upon the police and the armed forces to ensure that no further harm is caused to the people who are engaged in the protest," the BASL said.
The lawyers also urged public to protect public property, specially the President's House and Secretariat and also ensure that no harm is caused to any person.
Violent clashes broke out on Saturday as the protesters stormed the President's residence in Colombo, with police using tear gas shells to disperse the.
More than 40 protesters have been hospitalised, with three critically injured.
Anti-government protesters also surrounded another residence of the President in Kandy, as well as the ancestral house of former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in the southern city of Tangalle.
With the mounting crisis and tension in the country, schools which have been closed until July 18.
In the wake of the island nation's worst economic crisis since it gained independence in 1948, people have been protesting against President Rajapaksa and his government, asking him to step down.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa (both brothers of the President) and several other family members who were in the cabinet and Parliament have already resigned.
With no fuel country's transportation have been stopped completely for two weeks and Indian ocean island is virtually under lockdown.
The island nation of 22 million people has witnessed its foreign exchange reserves shrink due to economic mismanagement and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As a result it has struggled to pay for imports of essential goods, including fuel, food and medicine.
In May, it defaulted on its debts for the first time in its history after a 30-day grace period to come up with $78 million of unpaid debt interest payments expired.