Tue. Jun 25th, 2024

Sri Lanka Live Updates: Tear Gas Fired at Crowd at Prime Minister’s Office.

Protesters tried to push through the gates of the office. His spokesman said that he expects to be sworn in to replace President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled the country early on Wednesday.

Tear gas fired at protesters outside the prime minister’s office.

The police used tear gas as Sri Lankan protesters stormed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office in Colombo on Wednesday.Credit…Rafiq Maqbool/Associated Press

Police and military forces used tear gas to try to disperse a growing crowd outside the office of Sri Lanka’s prime minister, who was the top leader in the country after the president fled.

Protesters tried to push through the gates of the office of the prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe. A military helicopter flew overhead. Some people entered the grounds. Protesters have also demanded that Mr. Wickremesinghe resign. A spokesman for Mr. Wickremesinghe said the prime minister was not in his office.

Prime Minister Rani Wickremesinghe’s spokesman said the prime minister expects to be sworn in as president.
Prime Minister Rani Wickremesinghe’s spokesman said the prime minister expects to be sworn in as president.Credit…Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press

Mr. Wickremesinghe expects to be sworn in as acting president, according to the Constitution, once President Gotabaya Rajapaksa hands in his resignation.

Mr. Rajapaksa fled to the Maldives on Wednesday morning. Parliament has yet to receive an official resignation letter.

Overnight, thousands of people arrived in Colombo to join the already huge group of protesters that helped overrun the presidential residence on Saturday.

— Skandha Gunasekara and Emily Schmall

Sri Lanka’s president flees with the country deep in an economic crisis.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka in Colombo in February.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka in Colombo in February.Credit…Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka in Colombo in February.

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — President Gotabaya Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka fled the country on Wednesday after months of demonstrations demanding that he leave office culminated with protesters storming his official residence.

Mr. Rajapaksa left on an Air Force plane to the Maldives at about 2 a.m. local time, said Colonel Nalin Herath, a spokesman for Sri Lanka’s defense ministry. Three immigration officials, who declined to be named given the political situation, confirmed his departure as well.

The island nation is experiencing the worst economic crisis in its history, exacerbated by government mismanagement and missteps. Protests over a severe shortage of food, medicine and fuel have lasted for months.

Mr. Rajapaksa went into hiding after protesters took over his office and residence. He had told allies he was resigning on Wednesday.

The country’s prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, had on Saturday suggested he would also step down, but he appeared to be staying on. Protesters had been demanding his resignation as well.

As Mr. Rajapaksa’s departure from the country was confirmed, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, the speaker of the Parliament, said in a phone interview that he still had not received the president’s letter of resignation, which would make the end of his presidency official.

Mr. Rajapaksa, 73, a career military officer, would be the last member of his family’s dynasty to leave government. In May, Mahinda Rajapaksa, the prime minister and the president’s elder brother, was forced from office by protests. The finance minister, Basil Rajapaksa, another brother, and several other members of the family were also removed from their posts.

The fuel shortage has upended daily life in Sri Lanka for months, with the country essentially bankrupt and out of foreign-currency reserves for essential imports. The prices of food and medicine have soared, power cuts have become the norm and public transportation is often suspended to shore up fuel supplies.

The transition to a new government now puts the spotlight on a Parliament that has long frustrated the island nation of 22 million, with lawmakers and political parties engaging in protracted and messy fights over positions of power. Complicating matters, the ruling party loyal to the Rajapaksas still maintains a majority of the seats.

Sri Lanka’s constitution is clear on succession. In the event of that a president resigns, the prime minister takes on his duties in an interim capacity. The proceedings then turn to Parliament, where lawmakers vote for a new president from their midst to complete the term. Mr. Rajapaksa’s term had two years to go.

Still, the nation’s political leaders remain unpopular and many are associated with the Rajapaksa family. Protesters have been adamant that a new leader must be appointed who is free of those ties. On Wednesday morning, as demonstrators processed the president’s departure, it was unclear whether that would be enough to end months of protests.

— Skandha Gunasekara and Mujib Mashal

‘The thieves are running away’: Protesters flock to the capital from around Sri Lanka.




0:38Protesters in Sri Lanka Flock to the CapitalProtests continued in Colombo, Sri Lanka, following news that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had fled to the Maldives. Crowds took to the streets and moved toward the presidential residence.CreditCredit…Atul Loke for The New York Times

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — As a swelling crowd demanded that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe step down and protesters breached the gate of his office on Wednesday, security forces fired tear gas and a military helicopter circled overhead.

Earlier, as protesters marched near the prime minister’s office, security forces had tried to disperse the throngs with tear gas, but they would not budge and converged with another group. Riot police officers, many wearing gas masks and holding rifles, stood nearby air force and army forces without engaging with the crowd.

“We don’t want the robber Ranil, the bank thief, the deal thief!” the crowd chanted.

Hundreds of marchers had set off from the president’s office in the morning, including families with young children. Their numbers had been reinforced overnight by crowds arriving in the capital, Colombo, from across Sri Lanka.

As the day began outside the president’s office, the atmosphere was generally peaceful, with an air of celebration. People were digesting the news that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had fled to neighboring Maldives.

“The thieves are running away,” said Sanjayra Perera, a university librarian who was among the thousands who had traveled to Colombo. She had brought her two children, 12 and 10, on Wednesday morning by train from the western city of Gampaha.

She said she wanted her family to be in the capital when the Rajapaksa family dynasty fell.

“This is our country,” she said. “We win.”

The crowd found patches of shade under statues, sat on the wall of an oceanfront park and waited in line, holding umbrellas to block the sun, for a chance to see the historic office building, one of three government buildings that protesters had taken over this past weekend.

Despite the uncertainty over whether Mr. Rajapaksa would resign on Wednesday, as the speaker of Parliament has said he would, and who might replace him, protesters were jubilant with the confidence that the end of an era was near.

“This is a historical day for us,” said Randika Sandaruwan, 26, who took the train on Tuesday night with nine friends from the nearby city of Negombo. “We needed to kick out our president, and now Gota is gone,” he said, using a nickname for the president.

Mr. Sandaruwan and his friends, like many protesters, had nothing to protect them from the tear gas.

Shameen Opanayake, 22, sat on the front steps with his mother and two sisters. They had taken an early bus from their home in Kalutara, south of the capital.

“If he doesn’t step down today,” he said, referring to the president, “I don’t think so that this place will remain calm. The whole country is rejecting him.”

— Emily Schmall

The president’s ouster came after months of protests and political missteps.

People taking selfies inside the prime minister’s residence in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Tuesday.
People taking selfies inside the prime minister’s residence in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Tuesday.Credit…Atul Loke for The New York Times
People taking selfies inside the prime minister’s residence in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Tuesday.

Sri Lanka, an island nation of 22 million people, was once held up as an economic success story, with a rising middle class and one of the highest median income’s in South Asia. But the country is now essentially out of money and many people are living on the edge, the result of poor political decisions and economic mismanagement.

As food and fuel have run low in recent months, a swelling protest movement has pushed for the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and other politicians tied to his family’s political dynasty. The situation came to a head this weekend when protesters breached the president’s residence.

Here’s how this crisis has developed:

  • The country is hit by a series of economic headwinds in early 2020, including the pandemic, which all but destroyed the tourism industry.
  • Officials ban fertilizers the next year, battering harvests and leading to fears of food shortages. While the misguided policy is lifted after seven months, the damage is already done.
  • As the country starts running out of foreign currency, supplies of food, fuel and other supplies dwindle, bringing protesters to the street. In May, the prime minister is forced out.
  • On Saturday, protesters take over the president’s residential in Columbo, as Mr. Rajapaksa went into hiding. The speaker of Parliament said the president has agreed to resign, as has the prime minister.
  • The president flees the country on Wednesday, leaving the leadership of the country uncertain.

— Mujib Mashal

(New York Times)

By Chala Dandessa

I am Lecturer, Researcher and Freelancer. I am the founder and Editor at ETHIOPIANS TODAY website. If you have any comment use caalaadd2@gmail.com as email contact. Additionally you can contact us through the contact page of www.ethiopianstoday.com.

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