Protest sides in Sri Lanka calm down as President’s resignation is expected

Protest sides in Sri Lanka calm down as President's resignation is expected
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  • President Rajapaksa on his way from Maldives to Singapore – source
  • Sri Lankan interim president imposes curfew in Colombo
  • Demonstrators give back the residences of the President and Prime Minister

COLOMBO, July 14 (Reuters) – Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo was quiet on Thursday as people waited for the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled to the Maldives to escape a popular uprising that erupted when the country was hit by a was struggling with the economic crisis. .

Rajapaksa was en route from the Maldives to Singapore on Thursday, a Sri Lankan government source said. His decision on Wednesday to make his ally Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe the acting president sparked further protests. Demonstrators stormed parliament and the prime minister’s office, demanding his resignation. Continue reading

Rajapaksa has repeatedly assured the speaker of the parliament that he will resign on Wednesday, but his letter of resignation had not arrived as of Thursday, said an aide to speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.

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The speaker could seek advice from the Attorney General on how to proceed if the letter does not arrive by the end of the day, said the speaker, who declined to be named given the sensitivity of the matter.

At the President’s 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 yet,” said Terance Rodrigo, a 26-year-old student who said he has been at the site since it was taken over by protesters on Saturday, along with the prime minister’s official residence.

“We have to make society better. Government does not solve people’s problems.”

However, the usual protest sites were quiet and organizers said they would return the apartments to the government.

“Once the President has left the country … holding the captured places no longer has any symbolic value,” Chameera Dedduwage, one of the organizers, told Reuters.

Wickremesinghe nevertheless imposed a curfew in Colombo from noon (0630 GMT) until early morning on Friday to prevent further unrest.

Protests over the economic crisis have simmered for months and came to a head last weekend when hundreds of thousands of people occupied government buildings in Colombo, blaming the powerful Rajapaksa family and their allies for runaway inflation, lack of basic necessities and corruption.


Police said one person was killed and 84 injured in clashes between riot police and protesters Wednesday near the Parliament building and the prime minister’s office as people demanded the ousting of Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe.

Police spokesman Nalin Thalduwa said the man who died was a 26-year-old protester who succumbed after being injured near the prime minister’s office.

The area around Parliament was deserted on Thursday morning. The police manned a barricade on the access road. Life was returning to normal nearby, with shops open and many cars on the streets.

The night before, an intersection there was packed with several hundred protesters, and ambulances regularly evacuated the injured from the area.

“We want Ranil to go home,” Malik Perera, a 29-year-old rickshaw driver who said he took part in the protests, said Thursday. “They sold the land, we want a good person to take over, we won’t stop until then.”

Sitting in a park opposite the entrance to Parliament, he showed bruises on his back allegedly sustained during the clashes.

Rajapaksa, his wife and two bodyguards left the main international airport near Colombo on an Air Force plane early Wednesday. Maldives media said he is now waiting to fly to Singapore.

Government sources and aides said the President’s brothers, former President and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa are still in Sri Lanka.

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

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Additional reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan and Waruna Karunatilake; Writing from Krishna N. Das; Edited by Raju Gopalakrishnan

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