A visual guide to the protests sweeping Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his entire cabinet are set to step down this week, with outrage over the country’s economic crisis boiling over and protesters on their doorstep – literally.
On Saturday, tens of thousands of protesters took over buildings in the Sri Lankan capital, including the official residence of Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, in the biggest day of escalating protests in months. Photos and videos of hundreds of protesters taking smiling selfies, frolicking in a swimming pool and singing, dancing and waving the national flag in lavish rooms have just underscored the scale of the changes taking place in the South Asian island nation. .
The Prime Minister’s Office, in a statement on Monday, confirmed Rajapaksa’s decision to step down this week, although he himself made no direct public statement.
Soaring inflation and public debt have left the nation of 22 million with severe shortages of food, medicine and fuel, with citizens taking to the streets to demand accountability. Many blame Rajapaksa and his family, who dominated Sri Lankan politics for years, for mismanaging the country’s finances and contributing to the crisis.
Thousands of people descended on Rajapaksa’s official residence in Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka, on Saturday, demanding his resignation and chanting slogans.
Sri Lankan TV broadcasts and footage posted on social media showed protesters managed to storm the building after breaking through security cordons, with soldiers and police failing to hold back the crowd.
Reuters reported that Rajapaksa was not at the scene, having evacuated on Friday as a safety precaution ahead of planned protests, according to two Defense Ministry sources.
Home to the Rajapaksa family political dynasty for most of the past two decades, the colonial-era presidential palace quickly fell into the hands of citizens.
Shortly after taking over the residence, protesters were pictured dancing and celebrating, many displaying the Sri Lankan flag.
The next target was the nearby private residence of Wickremesinghe, who has only been prime minister since the resignation of Rajapaksa’s brother in May. The estate was set on fire by protesters after a clash with police.
That day, the parliament speaker’s office announced that Rajapaksa would step down in a video statement. Wickremesinghe’s office has also indicated his willingness to resign.