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Sri Lankan protesters set fire to prime minister's home

After their houses were attacked and one set on fire, Sri Lanka’s President and Prime Minister have both agreed to resign.

After he declared he would resign over the country’s economic crisis, his private residence was set ablaze.

Ranil Wickremesinghe declared that he would be quitting Saturday afternoon.

It came after the President’s residence in Colombo was stormed in the capital in one of the largest anti-government protests this year.

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Gotabaya Rajapaksa the president, was under immense pressure to resign and told the speaker of the country that he would resign on Wednesday.

Tweeted Mr Wickremesinghe: “To ensure continuation of the government, including the safety and security of all citizens, I accept the best recommendation today from the party leaders to make way for an All-Party Government.”

After thousands of protestors gathered in Colombo’s government district, shouting slogans at the president and destroying several police barricades that prevented them from reaching his home, he resigned.

More information about Sri Lanka

The police fired shots into the air, but they were unable stop the angry crowd that surrounded the residence.

Sources at hospitals indicated that at least 39 people were injured in the unrest, including two police officers.

Protesters also gathered outside the Presidential Secretariat which is the residence of the prime minister and office of the president.

Sources from the defence ministry said that both Mr Rajapaksa (and Mr Wickremesinghe) were moved to a safe location.

Many hundreds of flag-bearing protesters crowded into the president’s property on the seafront and used the swimming pools via a Facebook livestream.

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Protesters from Sri Lanka break into the home of President and go swimming
Image: Protesters in the President’s residence in Colombo. Pic: AP

After summoning leaders of political parties to an emergency meeting, Mr Wickremesinghe was forced to resign.

His office also stated that he requested the speaker to recall parliament.

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Julie Chung, US ambassador to Sri Lanka, urged people to peacefully protest and asked for police to allow demonstrators to move – warning that “chaos or force will not fix this economy.”

Sri Lanka, which is home to 22 millions people, is currently facing its worst economic crisis since 1948, when it gained independence.

Inflation reached a record 54.66% in June, and it is predicted to rise to 70%, putting pressure on cash-strapped populations.

Image: Protesters outside the presidential palace. Photo by News Cutter
Image: The president’s garden was overgrown. Pic by Reuters
Image: The living quarters of the president. Pic by Reuters

Due to a severe shortage of foreign currency, the country is currently in serious trouble. This has caused it to be unable import essential fuel, food, and medicine.

Many people blame Mr Rajapaksa for the decline.

Protester Sampath Perera (37), criticized the president for “clinging to power” and warned that “we will not stop until we listen to him.”

Image: A crowd gathers outside the office of President Colombo. Pic by AP
Image: Police use tear gas to disperse the crowd. Photo by AP
Image: Authorities attempt to disperse protesters at Colombo. Pic: AP

As fuel supplies dwindled, anger intensified. This led to the rationing of petrol and diesel for essential services.

The British Foreign Office has urged against travel to the country that has been in financial turmoil because of economic mismanagement and the effects of the pandemic.

Sri Lanka announced in April that it would suspend repayments of foreign loans due to a shortage of foreign currency.

Image: After tear gas was fired in Colombo, a man covers his face. Pic by AP
Image: Protesters were equipped with gas masks. Pic by AP

It has more than PS42bn in outstanding debts, and around half of that, PS23.3bn must be repaid before 2027.

The reputation of Rajapaksa’s political dynasty, which has governed the country for the majority of the past 20 years, has been severely damaged by the crisis.

In May, Mr Rajapaksa’s brother was resigned from his post as prime minister. Two other brothers and a nephew also resigned from their cabinet posts in this year.

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