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Sri Lankan protesters force President to flee during economic crisis

Sri Lanka is going through its worst ever economic crisis, which has led to spiralling prices and power cuts that last several hours. With President Rajapaksa refusing to step down, protestors stormed his residence, causing him to flee and later announce his plans to resign.

In the past week, Sri Lanka has witnessed the following: thousands of protestors storming President Rajapaksa’s house as well as PM Wikremesinghe’s office, the President fleeing, the PM’s private residence being set on fire, and an acting President assuming office.

All of this stems back to the economic crisis that Sri Lanka has been suffering from which resulted in shortage of medicines, fuel, and cooking gas. As a matter of fact, leaders have been trying to negotiate a bailout with the IMF.

Led by anger over these conditions, on 9th July, thousands of protestors took the President’s house by storm.

Images surfaced online, showing groups of people swimming in the pool, laying on the beds in the house, and even making tea; they also issued statements from a conference room, calling for Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe to step down.

According to a report by the Sri Lankan air force media director, Rajapaksa, his wife, and two of his bodyguards left for Male, Maldives, after receiving approval from the defence ministry.

Even so, Rajapaksa’s arrival in Maldives was met with demonstrators, displeased with the Maldivian government hosting him there. Regardless, he left for Singapore today.

In light of this uproar, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said in a televised address that parliamentarians had met and decided that it was appropriate for Rajapaksa to step down. What’s more- he has reportedly agreed to this, making PM Wickremesinghe the acting President.

Nevertheless, thousands of people took to the streets, enraged by the news of Rajapaksa fleeing and the PM’s latest appointment as acting President.

In fact, the demonstrations got so intense that people attempted to break into the Prime Minister’s office despite the use of water cannons, tear gas, and a state of emergency.

In a statement, PM Wickremesinghe said, ‘We can’t allow fascists to take over. We must end this fascist threat to democracy’, also pointing out that official buildings that were under the control of protestors should be returned to state control.

NDTV reported that a spokeswoman for the anti-government protests said, ‘We are peacefully withdrawing from the Presidential Palace, the Presidential Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Office with immediate effect, but will continue our struggle’.

With the economic and political crisis unfolding so rapidly, it is unclear what happens next. However, citizens and observers of Sri Lankan affairs wonder when President Rajapaksa will resign, when the leaders of the country will be able to secure a bailout with the IMF, when the shortage of essential items will be effectively addressed, and when everything will be back to normal.