Sri Lanka’s anti-government protesters said on Thursday they would end the occupation of official buildings, as they vowed to continue their efforts to bring down the president and prime minister amid a severe economic crisis. important.
Protesters supported President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s palace over the weekend, forcing him to flee to the Maldives on Wednesday, when activists also stormed the office of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Mr Rajapaksa had promised to step down on Wednesday, but there was no announcement he did so.
The prime minister, whom Mr Rajapaksa appointed acting president in his absence, ordered the evacuation of state buildings and instructed security forces to do “what is necessary to restore order”.
“We are peacefully withdrawing from the Presidential Palace, Presidential Office and Prime Minister’s Office with immediate effect, but will continue our struggle,” a spokesman for the protesters said. said.
A leading Buddhist monk backing the campaign earlier called for the more than 200-year-old presidential palace to be handed over to the authorities and to ensure its valuable artworks and artifacts are preserved.
“This building is a national treasure and it needs to be protected,” monk Omalpe Sobitha told reporters. “There must be a proper audit and the property is given back to the state.”
Hundreds of thousands of people have visited the complex since it was opened to the public after Rajapaksa fled and his security agents backed down.
In a televised address after thousands occupied his office in Colombo, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe stated: “Those who come to my office want to prevent me from abdicating from my responsibilities as an officer. chairperson.”
“We cannot allow the fascists to take over. That’s why I declared a nationwide state of emergency and a curfew,” he added.
The curfew was lifted at dawn on Thursday, but police said one soldier and one policeman were injured in overnight clashes with protesters outside parliament.
Attempts to enter the legislature have been defeated, unlike in other locations where protesters have had spectacular success.
The main hospital in Colombo said about 85 people were hospitalized with injuries on Wednesday, with one man suffocating after being pepper sprayed at the prime minister’s office.
Mr Rajapaksa remained in the Maldives on Thursday, believed to be waiting for a private jet to take him, his wife Ioma and two bodyguards to Singapore.
Local media reports said he refused to take a commercial flight with other passengers after receiving a hostile reception when he arrived in the Maldives early Wednesday.
He was mocked and insults thrown at him as he walked out of Velana International Airport, and another group staged a protest in the capital in the afternoon calling on the Maldivian authorities not to allow him to walk safely.
Maldivian media reported that he spent the night at the ultra-luxury Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi resort.
They compare the luxury accommodation to the economic plight of their fellow British – four out of five Sri Lankans skip meals because of the country’s severe economic crisis.
Security sources in Colombo said Mr Rajapaksa is likely to leave the Maldives on Thursday and his resignation could be announced after he is released.
“A resignation letter has been prepared,” the source told AFP. “It won’t be long before he gives the green light, the Speaker will issue it.”
Diplomatic sources said Rajapaksa’s attempt to secure a visa to the United States was rejected because he renounced his American citizenship in 2019 before running for president.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from an aggregated feed.)