Protest sites in Sri Lanka are quiet as they await the resignation of the president

  • President Rajapaksa on his way to Singapore from the Maldives
  • The Interim President of Sri Lanka has issued a curfew in Colombo
  • Protesters to hand over the houses of the President and Prime Minister

COLOMBO, July 14 (Reuters) – Sri Lanka’s main city Colombo was quiet on Thursday as people awaited the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled to the Maldives to escape popular uprisings that erupted as the country grapples with an economic crisis. .

A Sri Lankan government source said Rajapakse was on his way to Singapore from the Maldives on Thursday. His decision on Wednesday to make his ally, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, interim president sparked further protests, with demonstrators besieging parliament and the prime minister’s office and demanding his resignation as well. read more

An aide to Speaker Mahinda Yappa Abeywardena said that although Rajapaksa had repeatedly promised the Speaker of Parliament that he would step down on Wednesday, his resignation letter was not received until Thursday.

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If the letter is not received by the end of the day, the speaker may seek advice from the attorney general on the next course of action, said the aide, who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Inside the presidential residence, ordinary Sri Lankans wandered the halls, taking in the building’s extensive art collection, luxury cars and swimming pool.

“The fight is not over,” said Terence Rodrigo, a 26-year-old student who has been inside the campus since the protestors took over the prime minister’s official residence on Saturday.

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“We need to improve the society rather than this. The government is not solving people’s problems.”

However, the usual protest sites remained calm and organizers said they would hand over the settlements to the government.

“Since the president is out of the country … holding the captured seats does not have any symbolic value,” Sameera Tethuwa, one of the organizers, told Reuters.

Nevertheless, Wickremesinghe imposed a curfew in Colombo from midday (0630 GMT) until the early hours of Friday morning in an attempt to prevent further unrest.

Protests against the economic crisis have simmered for months, with hundreds of thousands of people occupying government buildings in Colombo last weekend, blaming inflation, shortages of basic goods and corruption on the powerful Rajapaksa family and allies.

Overnight Hospitals

Police said one person was killed and 84 injured in clashes between riot police and protesters near the parliament building and the prime minister’s office on Wednesday as people demanded the impeachment of both Rajapakse and Wickremesinghe.

Police Media Spokesperson Nalin Taldua said that the deceased was a 26-year-old protester. He succumbed to his injuries near the Prime Minister’s office.

The area around Parliament was deserted on Thursday morning. Police set up a barricade on the approach road. Nearby, shops opened and life returned to normal with plenty of cars on the road.

The night before, an intersection there was packed with several hundred protesters and ambulances continued to evacuate the injured.

“We want Ranil to go home,” said 29-year-old rickshaw driver Malik Perera on Thursday, who said he had taken part in the protests. “They have sold the country and a good person must take over and we will not stop until then.”

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Sitting in the park opposite the Parliament entrance, he showed his back the injury he sustained during the clash.

Rajapaksa, his wife and two bodyguards took off from the main international airport near Colombo on an air force flight early Wednesday morning. Maldivian media reported that he was waiting to go to Singapore.

The president’s brothers, former president and prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa, are still in Sri Lanka, government sources and aides said.

Sri Lanka’s parliament is expected to appoint a new full-time president on July 20, and although no decision has been made, Wickremesinghe is the party’s first choice, a top ruling party source told Reuters. The opposition’s choice is their main leader and former president’s son Sajith Premadasa.

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Additional reporting by Sudarsana Varadhan and Varuna Karunathilaka; Krishna N. Written by Das; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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