Crisis in Sri Lanka: Angry protesters take over the luxury homes of their leaders. What’s next?

However, the protesters say they will not leave the palatial homes until both leaders vacate their positions. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is expected to step down on Wednesday and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe tweeted his resignation on Saturday but did not confirm his departure date.

The resignation marks a major victory for the protesters, but the future of the country’s 22 million people remains uncertain as they struggle to buy essentials, fuel and medicine.

Here are the latest.

Over the weekend, tens of thousands of protesters gathered outside the president’s office and residence before breaking through security cordons.

Vivid footage posted on social media shows them singing protest songs and chanting slogans calling for Rajapaksa to step down. Other photos show groups of demonstrators setting up barbecue pits to grill and cook food.

But the most dramatic footage showed protesters swimming in the president’s private pool.

The Sri Lankan military took Rajapaksa away on a naval ship minutes before protesters broke into his residence, a senior military source told CNN on Sunday.

The source added that the president descended from his bedroom on the top floor of the palace and left the premises moments before the demonstrators broke down the first barrier of the complex.

According to them, the naval ship is currently at sea near Colombo in the territorial waters of Sri Lanka.

Later on Saturday, protesters attacked Wickremesinghe’s home, setting fire to his private residence on Fifth Street, in an affluent area of ​​the capital. Live video that CNN saw showed the building engulfed in flames as crowds gathered at the scene and cheered.

The leaders were not at their homes when the buildings were broken into, security officials said, and they were moved to safety prior to the attacks.

Protesters in Sri Lanka occupy the residence of the Prime Minister.

At least 55 people were injured in protests on Saturday, including an MP from eastern Sri Lanka and three people with gunshot wounds, according to local health officials. Videos were circulated on social media suggesting soldiers were shooting at protesters near the presidential residence, but the military denied opening fire.

Protests in Sri Lanka have been mounting since March, when public anger spilled onto the streets over rising food prices, fuel shortages and power outages as the country struggled to pay down debt.

Police use water and tear gas to disperse demonstrators who have gathered on the street leading to the official presidential residence on July 9.

What’s going on with the government?

Rajapaksa will formally step down on July 13, officials said after an emergency meeting called by Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.

Wickremesinghe tweeted that he was resigning “to ensure the continued operation of the government, including the safety of all citizens,” but did not give a date.

Four other ministers also resigned over the weekend – the latest in an exodus of senior officials. April 3 The entire cabinet of the government of Sri Lanka was effectively dissolved due to massive resignations of top ministers.

Some 26 cabinet ministers resigned this weekend, including the central bank governor as well as the president’s nephew, who criticized the apparent social media shutdown, calling it “never condoning.”

Analysts and observers now say Parliament Speaker Abeywardena is likely to take over interim leadership of the country until lawmakers elect the next president to replace Rajapaksa and complete his remaining term, which is due to end in 2024.

A new president will be elected on July 20 after parliament resumes on July 16, Abeywardena said in a statement on Monday.

Nominations for the top post will be submitted to parliament starting July 19, with a vote to elect a new president a day later, Abeywardena said.

The timeline was agreed upon during a meeting between Sri Lankan party leaders in Colombo on Monday to ensure the speedy establishment of a new all-party unity government in accordance with the country’s constitution.

Following protests over the weekend, the IMF said it was closely monitoring developments in the country.

“We hope to resolve the current situation, which will allow us to resume our dialogue on the IMF-supported program, while we plan to continue technical discussions with our colleagues in the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Sri Lanka,” the IMF mission leaders said. Peter Breuer and Masahiro Nozaki in a joint statement on Sunday.

How is life in Sri Lanka now?

The country suffered its worst financial crisis in seven decades after its foreign exchange reserves fell to record lows and dollars ran out to pay for essential imports, including food, medicine and fuel.

For Sri Lankans, the crisis has turned their daily lives into an endless cycle of waiting in line for essentials, many of which are rationed.

Despite earlier government efforts to ease the crisis, such as introducing a four-day work week, Wickremesinghe declared the country “bankrupt” last Tuesday.

In several major cities, including the capital Colombo, desperate residents continue to line up for food and medicine, with reports of clashes between civilians and police and military waiting in line.

In early July, Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said there was less than a day of fuel left in the country.

Trains have become less frequent, forcing travelers to squeeze into compartments and even sit precariously when they commute to work.

Patients cannot travel to hospitals due to lack of fuel and soaring food prices. Rice, a staple food in this South Asian country, has disappeared from the shelves in many stores and supermarkets.

Public frustration and anger flared on March 31 when demonstrators threw bricks and set fire to the president’s private residence.

Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protests, after which they imposed a 36-hour curfew.

President Rajapaksa declared a national emergency on April 1, giving authorities the power to detain people without a warrant and blocking social media platforms.

But protests continued the next day despite a curfew, prompting police to arrest hundreds of demonstrators.

Now the protesters have forced both the president and the prime minister to resign.

What is the background of these protests?

The crisis has been brewing for years, say experts, who point to a series of government decisions that have exacerbated external shocks.

Over the past decade, the Sri Lankan government has borrowed huge amounts of money from foreign lenders to finance public services, said Murtaza Jafferjee, chairman of the Colombo-based think tank Advocata Institute.

This boom in borrowing coincided with a series of hammer blows on Sri Lanka’s economy, ranging from natural disasters such as strong monsoons to man-made disasters, including a government ban on chemical fertilizers that wiped out farmers’ crops.

Faced with huge deficits, Rajapaksa cut taxes in a doomed attempt to stimulate the economy.

But the move backfired, hitting government revenue instead. This prompted rating agencies to downgrade Sri Lanka to near default, meaning the country lost access to foreign markets.

Sri Lanka then had to use its foreign exchange reserves to pay off the public debt, which led to a reduction in its reserves. This affected the import of fuel and other necessities, causing prices to skyrocket.

On top of that, in March, the government introduced the Sri Lankan rupee into circulation, which means that its price was determined based on supply and demand in the foreign exchange markets.

However, the depreciation of the rupee against the US dollar only worsened the situation of ordinary Sri Lankans.

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