Thousands of protesters storm the presidential palace to protest Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis | International
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Thousands of demonstrators protesting in Colombo over the economic collapse of recent months in Sri Lanka have stormed the palace of the president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, on Saturday. They blame him for the biggest crisis since the country’s independence in 1948, with fuel rationing, shortages of basic products and inflation close to 55%. The president fled minutes before the arrival of the crowd, according to Defense Ministry sources, who point out that he “has been escorted to a safe place and is protected by a military unit.” Hours later, the prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, announced his resignation to open the door to “a government of all parties”, at the request of his leaders.
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.
— Ranil Wickremesinghe (@RW_UNP) July 9, 2022
Wickremesinghe announced the decision on Twitter after calling an urgent meeting of the Government, to which he invited the leaders of the rest of the political parties, to discuss a “quick resolution”. He also asked the speaker of Parliament to call a session immediately.
Images from local television networks show hundreds of people, some wearing helmets and the national flag, climbing the gates of the palace, a colonial-era seaside building, a symbol of power in Sri Lanka. In other recordings, broadcast on social networks, you can see people bathing in the palace pool, walking around the rooms or lying on the beds laughing.
Another group has entered the offices of the president, also in the capital and in front of which a group has been camping for three months. There is a third concentration at the gates of the Central Bank.
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The police tried to contain the demonstrators in the presidential palace with charges that have left dozens injured. Hours before the raid, officers fired into the air and fired tear gas.
Tens of thousands of people, including lawyers, artists and well-known civil society personalities, have marched behind Buddhist monks – who have a fundamental role in the protests – to demand once and for all the dissolution of the Government. The economic situation has left the population, 70% of whom identify themselves as Buddhists, with virtually no fuel or access to basic necessities.
The rally in the capital came after months of unrest and protests over the economic crisis. Popular pressure already forced last May the resignation of the former prime minister and brother of the president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, in favor of Wickremesinghe. That same month, nine people were killed and hundreds were injured in riots.
The protesters blame the presidential family clan for having aggravated the situation with their decisions. In Sri Lanka there is a lack of everything from fuel to medicines, inflation is close to 55% – and is expected to reach 70% in the coming months – and there are daily blackouts of up to 13 hours. The country, with 22 million inhabitants, also drags a historical non-payment of the debt.
In fact, at the beginning of the month, it became the first country in the world to restrict the sale of fuel to citizens since the oil crisis of the 1970s, through a decree by which vehicle owners private are prohibited from using gas stations until this Sunday.
The nation also needs some $6 billion in aid from the International Monetary Fund and countries like India and China to get by in the next six months, according to the prime minister. Local authorities have spent the last few weeks speeding up bailout talks with the IMF and other agencies to secure new sources of financing.
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