AP

Protesters break into home of Sri Lankan PM, set it on fire

Jul 9, 2022, 10:55 AM
GALLE, SRI LANKA - JULY 09: Anti-government protesters take part in protests calling for the resign...
GALLE, SRI LANKA - JULY 09: Anti-government protesters take part in protests calling for the resignation of Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on July 09, 2022 in Galle, Sri Lanka. Beleaguered Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled his official residence in Colombo after thousands of anti-government protesters stormed the compound, amid growing calls for his resignation. (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)
(Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Protesters broke into the Sri Lankan prime minister’s private residence and set it on fire, hours after he said he would resign when a new government is formed, in the biggest day of angry demonstrations on Saturday that also saw crowds storming the president’s home and office.

The office of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the protesters forced their way into his Colombo home on Saturday evening. It wasn’t immediately clear if he was inside at the time of the attack.

Wickremesinghe said earlier that he will resign only when all parties have agreed on a new government.

He was responding to a call by leaders of political parties represented in Parliament that he and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa quit, after tens of thousands of people trooped to the capital to vent their fury at the leaders they hold responsible for the nation’s worst economic and political crisis.

“Today in this country we have a fuel crisis, a food shortage, we have the head of the World Food Program coming here and we have several matters to discuss with the IMF. Therefore, if this government leaves there should be another government,” Wickremesinghe said in a voice statement.

But he made it clear he will not step down before a new government is formed, angering crowds that moved near his home to force him to leave office immediately.

Wickremesinghe said he suggested to the president to have an all-party government, but didn’t say anything about Rajapaksa’s whereabouts. Opposition parties in Parliament were currently discussing the formation of a new government.

Rajapaksa appointed Wickremesinghe as prime minister in May in the hope that the career politician would use his diplomacy and contacts to resuscitate a collapsed economy. But people’s patience wore thin as shortages of fuel, medicine and cooking gas only increased and oil reserves ran dry.

Many protesters accuse Wickremesinghe of trying to save Rajapaksa when he came under pressure to resign and every other member of his powerful political dynasty quit the Cabinet.

Privately-owned Sirasa Television reported that at least six of their staff members including four reporters were hospitalized after they were beaten by police while covering the protest near Wickremesinghe’s home.

Sri Lanka Medical Council, the country’s top professional body, warned that the country’s hospitals were running with minimum resources and will not be able to handle any mass casualties from the unrest.

The association said that the president, prime minister and the government would be held responsible if people died or were maimed. It urged the leaders to heed the cry of the people, resign and hand over the reins to an all-party government.

The crowds earlier Saturday broke into Rajapaksa fortified residence. Footage showed people in a jubilant mood taking a dip in the garden pool of the residence. Some lay on beds, others made tea and drank, and made “statements” from the conference room that Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe must immediately quit.

It was not clear if Rajapaksa was inside his residence when it was stormed. A government spokesman, Mohan Samaranayake, said he had no information about his movements.

Leaders of political parties in Parliament met later and decided to request Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe to step down, opposition lawmaker Rauff Hakeem said on Twitter. He said a consensus was reached that the parliamentary speaker should take over as temporary president and work on an interim government.

Sri Lanka’s economy is in a state of collapse, relying on aid from India and other countries as its leaders try to negotiate a bailout with the International Monetary Fund. The economic meltdown has led to severe shortages of essential items, leaving people struggling to buy food, fuel and other necessities.

The turmoil has led to months of protests, which have nearly dismantled the Rajapaksa political dynasty that has ruled Sri Lanka for most of the past two decades.

The president’s older brother resigned as prime minister in May after violent protests saw him seek safety at a naval base. Much of the public ire has been pointed at the Rajapaksa family, with protesters blaming them for dragging Sri Lanka into chaos with poor management and allegations of corruption.

At the president’s seaside office, security personnel tried to stop demonstrators who pushed through fences to run across the lawns and inside the colonial-era building.

At least 34 people including two police officers were wounded in scuffles as protesters tried to enter the residence. Two of the injured are in critical condition while others sustained minor injuries, said an official at the Colombo National Hospital who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Thousands of protesters entered the capital from the suburbs after police lifted an overnight curfew. With fuel supplies scarce, many crowded onto buses and trains to come to the city to protest, while others made their way on bicycles and on foot.

Protest and religious leaders called on Rajapaksa to step down, saying he has lost the people’s mandate.

“His claim that he was voted in by the Sinhala Buddhists is not valid now,” said Ven. Omalpe Sobitha, a prominent Buddhist leader. He urged Parliament to convene immediately to select an interim president but said that Wickremesinghe did not enjoy the people’s support.

Last month, Wickremesinghe said the country’s economy has collapsed. He said that the negotiations with the IMF have been complex because Sri Lanka was now a bankrupt state.

In April, Sri Lanka announced it is suspending repaying foreign loans due to a foreign currency shortage. Its total foreign debt amounts to $51 billion of which it must repay $28 billion by the end of 2027.

Police had imposed a curfew in Colombo and several other main urban areas on Friday night but withdrew it Saturday morning amid objections by lawyers and opposition politicians who called it illegal.

U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung on Friday asked people to protest peacefully and called for the military and police “to grant peaceful protesters the space and security to do so.”

“Chaos & force will not fix the economy or bring the political stability that Sri Lankans need right now,” Chung said in a tweet.

___

Associated Press writers Bharatha Mallawarachi in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and Krutika Pathi in New Delhi contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

AP

Signs left by abortion-rights supporters line the security fence surrounding The Supreme Court on J...
REBECCA BOONE Associated Press

Medical groups, 20 states weigh in on Idaho abortion lawsuit

Medical groups and states across the U.S. are watching as a legal battle over abortion rights pits the deep-red state of Idaho against the Department of Justice.
1 day ago
File photo (KSL TV)...
Associated Press

Oil spill stopped from reaching tributary on Navajo Nation

Crews have stopped an oil spill from reaching a tributary to the San Juan River and clean-up work continues at Standing Redrock Creek, Navajo Nation officials said Wednesday.
1 day ago
Rapper A$AP Rocky appeared in a Los Angeles Superior courtroom on Aug. 17, 2022 and pleaded not gui...
Associated Press

A$AP Rocky pleads not guilty to firearm assault charges

Rapper A$AP Rocky has pleaded not guilty to felony assault with a firearm charges stemming from a 2021 confrontation in Hollywood.
1 day ago
The exterior of The City of Westminster Magistrates Court on August 23, 2013 in London, England.  (...
Associated Press

UK man in court over threat to ‘kill queen’ with crossbow

Prosecutors say a man who got into the grounds of Windsor Castle armed with a crossbow told police he wanted to “kill the queen."
1 day ago
[File] Pride Flag...
Associated Press

Wisconsin school board votes in favor of pride flag ban

A Wisconsin school board has voted in favor of a policy that prohibits teachers and staff from displaying gay pride flags and other items that district officials consider political in nature.
1 day ago
(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America/Getty Images)...
MIKE STOBBE, AP Medical Writer

CDC director announces shake-up, citing COVID mistakes

The head of the nation’s top public health agency is shaking up the organization with the goal of making it more nimble.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
cyber security through multi factor authentication setup...
Les Olson IT

How multi factor authentication setup helps companies stay safe

Multi factor authentication (MFA) setup is an important security measure that every company should implement for their workers. It’s also wise to install it for your personal and home accounts.
...
Lighting Design

Check out these stunning lamps with stained glass shades

Lamps with stained glass shades are statement pieces that are more than simply aesthetic. They also meet a functional requirement: to light up a room.
Address Bar of internet browser shows internet access...
AARP Utah

Utah voters 50+ support increased access to Internet

The AARP surveyed Utah voters aged 50 plus about internet access and if they support the expansion of broadband, especially in rural areas currently lacking it.
Protesters break into home of Sri Lankan PM, set it on fire