Sri Lanka protesters staying put until president, PM leave office | Protests News

Thousands of people occupying the presidential palace are determined to stay until both the president and the prime minister formally resign.

Protesters in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo continued to occupy the offices of the president and prime minister for the second day in a row, vowing that they would stay until both formally resign.

Determined to see the country’s top leaders resign during an unprecedented economic crisis, thousands storm the presidential palace on Saturday and then set fire to the prime minister’s house, forcing the two leaders into hiding.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he would leave office when a new government arrives, while Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 73, will resign as president on Wednesday.

But the protesters refused to budge until the two leaders formally left their posts.

“Our struggle is not over yet,” student leader Lahiru Weerasekara told reporters on Sunday.

“We’re not going to give up on this struggle until he actually leaves.”

Playwright Ruwanthie de Chickera told a news conference at the main protest site in Colombo: “The president must resign, the prime minister must resign and the government must go.”

Along with other leaders who helped coordinate the movement against the government, she said the crowds would not move out of the official presidential and prime ministerial residences until then.

Images of people swimming in President Rajapaksa’s pool and running on treadmills in his private gym have gone viral around the world, marking a dramatic end to a two-decade-long rule. of the powerful Rajapaksa clan over Sri Lankan politics.

“I’m here because we have to find out what they’re doing with our tax dollars… politicians should understand the power of people,” one protester inside the presidential residence told Al Jazeera.

Ahilan Kadirgamar, a senior lecturer at Jaffna University, noted that the protesters had the support of people across the country, which has been rocked by harsh economic conditions from north to south.

“Farmers can’t grow crops, fishermen can’t go to sea…so support for regime change is island-wide,” says Kadirgamar. “The president and prime minister have been authorized across the country.”

Protesters slept in the bedroom of the President's house, the next day after protesters entered the building, after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled, amid the country's economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka July 10, 2022
Protesters sleep in the bedroom of the president’s home a day after protesters entered the building in Colombo, Sri Lanka [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]

Pressure on both men

Opposition parties met in the capital on Sunday to agree on a new government. On the same day, a statement from the presidential office said Rajapaksa had ordered officials to immediately begin distributing a consignment of cooking gas, indicating that he was still working.

Pressure on both the president and prime minister has increased as the country’s economic downturn has led to severe shortages of essential goods, leaving residents struggling to get food and fuel. and other necessities.

Rajapaksa appointed Wickremesinghe as prime minister in May in a bid to address shortages and start an economic recovery.

Wickremesinghe has entered into important negotiations with the IMF on a bailout program and with the World Food Program to prepare for an anticipated food crisis.

Protesters stay and play cards in the prime minister's official residence the day after the storm in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Protesters stay and play cards in the prime minister’s palace a day after the storm in Colombo, Sri Lanka [Eranga Jayawardena/Reuters]

Dangerous job’

Political analyst Aruna Kulatunga said whoever took on the task of stabilizing Sri Lanka, it would be not only a difficult job, but a “dangerous” one.

“Many pitfalls ahead could include decisions being made about whether we continue to extend IMF-backed debt or we decide to become a pariah country and simply stop redundancy. take our debt to the rest of the world,” he told Al Jazeera.

Or, Sri Lanka’s future leader could “seek refuge in the geopolitical game by asking for help from other countries that are not pillars of the global economy,” Kulatunga said. .

The economic crisis in Sri Lanka began earlier this year after the government suspended payments on foreign loans due to a shortage of foreign currency. The country is holding bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and relies on aid from India and other countries.

Many believe that the much-anticipated IMF bailout may be delayed due to the political crisis.

IMF officials told reporters they hoped the situation in Sri Lanka would improve.

“We are closely monitoring developments that are taking place in Sri Lanka. We hope that a solution to the current situation will allow our dialogue to resume,” the IMF said.

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