Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Colombo this weekend to call for the ouster of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa over the disastrous economic policies that have plunged the country into collapse. Angry crowds took over the President’s residence and office and celebrated their victory by jumping into the swimming pool and sprawling on his bed.
By evening, Rajapaksa had communicated his decision to step down on Wednesday. He had moved out of his home the day before the protests and his whereabouts are unknown.
Earlier in the evening Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had offered to step down to quell growing unrest, but his offer did not appease angry protesters, who set his home on fire.
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“It was a failed president and government,” said Faiszer Musthapha, a member of an opposition party previously allied with Rajapaksa. He said the country’s suffering people had taken control. “It was the power of the people that was shown,” he said.
“It is a historic moment,” said Harini Amarasuriya, an opposition MP, “when a genuine civil struggle ended the rule of an unpopular and untrustworthy government.”
At a meeting of all parties on Saturday evening Legislators have decided to form an interim government until elections can be held. Talks are underway to appoint a prime minister ahead of the president’s resignation on Wednesday.
“We can now chart a more acceptable long-term course for the country and the international community,” said Eran Wickremerathne, a leader of the main opposition party.
Even as the opposition tries to reach a consensus on next steps, the situation remains volatile as people’s patience is running out and no quick fixes are available.
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In May, similarly large-scale protests led to the resignation of Rajapaksa’s older brother Mahinda as prime minister and other family members. But the president persevered and appointed a former prime minister to head a new government.
Anger at the ongoing economic hardship spilled over again, this time with greater force. The past few weeks have been marked by severe fuel shortages, long power outages and skyrocketing food prices. The extraordinary circumstances forced authorities to close schools and offices and urge government employees to grow food in backyards.
The signs of acute hardship are everywhere – in the miles of queues at petrol stations, where it can take up to three days to reach the front lines, and the desperate attempts of asylum seekers to reach Australia by sea.
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The country is in bailout talks with international lenders, but ongoing political instability threatens to jeopardize that process.
Manjuka Fernandopulle, a lawyer specializing in debt restructuring, said creditors would like to deal with a government that is “credible and legitimate” and able to “deliver on promised reform”.
Local media reported the International Monetary Fund was hoping for a quick solution so talks on a bailout could resume.
At the presidential residence, the celebrations continued into the night with the cheering crowd. Demonstrators sang and danced with the country’s flag wrapped around their arms.
Masih reported from New Delhi.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/07/10/sri-lanka-protests-gotabaya-rajapaksa-resignation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_world Uncertainty remains following the Sri Lankan President’s bid to resign