Extraordinary scenes in Sri Lanka are the product of a man-made disaster | World News

The unprecedented events in Colombo were the result of more than three months of protests by ordinary Sri Lankans against the government, and especially President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The Secretariat of the Presidential Palace, the center of government, was stormed by thousands of protesters. Many people with their country’s flag on them ran up the steps and into the iconic building.

The prime minister’s home was then set on fire by protesters, hours after he said he would step down. The president, under intense pressure to follow suit, did so near 11 p.m. local time.

Since morning, there have been clashes between protesters and security forces across Colombo.

Undaunted by tear gas, police firing into the air and water cannons, protesters gathered to march into the president’s home to force him out of office. Many people were reported injured.

Their patience wore off as they argued with the military, who tried to stop them.

With sheer numbers, drive, and determination, they made one final push and broke the layered police barrier out of their way.

They stormed into the fortified presidential home and walked unobstructed through the buildings’ gardens, corridors, and many rooms. As they moved around taking pictures and selfies, they warned their president to go.

And few people have not missed the opportunity to cool off by jumping into the swimming pool of one of the safest addresses in the country.

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Protesters swim in the president’s swimming pool

Mr Rajapaksa had previously been evacuated to an undisclosed location and it was reported he was transferred to a navy ship.

Temple Tree, the official residence of Prime Minister Ranil Wikremesinghe, was also not spared – this too was stormed.

In an emergency meeting, the prime minister agreed to step down to form an all-party government.

One lawyer, who did not wish to be identified, said: “For now, I think everyone’s fight is progressing successfully. And I wish all the best for the struggle and we will eventually. make a good change for our country.”

Sri Lanka’s 22 million people are facing its worst-ever economic crisis, sending prices soaring and causing shortages of food, medicine and fuel.

The deep-rooted economic crisis has remained unresolved for decades by successive governments.

The reckless and misguided economic policies of the Rajapaksa government have deepened the crisis.

Crowds gathered outside the president's office in Colombo.  Photo: AP
Crowds gathered outside the president’s office in Colombo. Photo: AP
Protesters inside the home of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Colombo.  Photo: AP
Protesters inside the home of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Colombo. Photo: AP

Tax cuts, severe import restrictions, and a reluctance to implement prudent economic reforms have created a structural shortfall in the government’s economic policy.

With a severe balance of payments crisis, international agencies downgraded the country, further hindering foreign investment opportunities.

Protesters wear gas masks after tear gas was released Pic: AP
Protesters have prepared gas masks. Photo: AP

Tourism generates more than $4 billion a year, but the industry has been hit hard by the COVID pandemic.

To get over it in the short term, the government took on loan sharking that plunged the country into a debt trap.

The country is almost bankrupt because it has no foreign exchange reserves to buy important commodities.

It defaulted on $51 billion in foreign debt and is currently in talks for a $3 billion bailout with the International Monetary Fund.

However, the severity of the crisis is due to the fact that these loans may not be enough to get out of balance of payments problems any time when the current deficit is huge.

But for now, ordinary Sri Lankans will have to bear the brunt of the worst man-made disaster the country is witnessing.

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