How Rajapaksa from Sri Lanka agrees to retire, sings in the streets – but an uncertain future

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa agreed to resign On July 13, the speaker of the country’s parliament announced late Saturday evening after a stormy day when protesters broke into Rajapaksa’s official residence in Colombo and splashed in his swimming pool.

Protesters also attacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, setting fire to his private residence on Fifth Street, in an affluent area of ​​the capital. Wickremesinghe later said he was ready to step down “to make room for an all-party government”.

The announcements, celebrated by protesters singing in the streets and setting off fireworks, marked a historic victory for protesters who had been demanding Rajapaksa’s resignation for months over his government’s failure to address the country’s economic collapse.

Another four ministers resigned over the weekend.

Minister of Tourism and Lands Harin Fernando, Minister of Labor and Foreign Affairs Manousha Nanayakkara, Minister of Transport and Highways, and Cabinet Spokesperson Bandula Gunawardena resigned on Saturday, according to the Office of Ministers.

Portfolio Minister Dhammika Perera told CNN he resigned on Sunday.

Economic turmoil has plunged the Indian Ocean island nation of 22 million into a terrible humanitarian crisis, leaving millions of people struggling for food, medicine and fuel.

After months of mostly peaceful protests, anger reached a breaking point on Saturday when more than 100,000 people gathered outside Rajapaksa’s residence calling for his resignation.

A video broadcast on Sri Lankan television and social media showed protesters entering the president’s home – Rajapaksa’s office and residence – after breaching security cordons. The footage shows demonstrators inside a whitewashed colonial-era building and banners hanging from a balcony.

Later Saturday, a live video broadcast by local media and viewed by CNN showed Wickremesinghe’s house in flames as crowds gathered around.

Neither the president nor the prime minister was in their residences when the buildings were broken into. Both were moved to safety before the attack, security officials said.

Political uncertainty

Saturday’s sharp escalation of unrest could spell the end of the Rajapaksa family’s political dynasty, which has ruled Sri Lanka for much of the past two decades.

In a video message late on Saturday evening, Mahinda Parliament Speaker Yapa Abeywardena said that Rajapaksa’s decision to step down “was made to ensure a peaceful transition of power.”

But how this transfer of power will ultimately play out is engulfed in uncertainty.

If both Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa step down, according to Sri Lanka’s constitution, the speaker of parliament will serve as acting president for a maximum of 30 days. Meanwhile, the parliament will elect a new president from among its members within 30 days, who will hold the post for the remaining two years of the current term.

U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations said on Twitter on Sunday that Rajapaksa “lost the confidence” of his people.

“Now all parties must work together with the international community to create a new government that respects democratic and economic aspirations and upholds the human rights that the people of Sri Lanka deserve,” the committee said.

The military and police must exercise restraint and be part of the solution, not part of the problem, in this crisis.

Journalists injured

At least 55 people were injured in the protests, according to Dr. Pushpa Zoisa of the Sri Lanka National Hospital, who said there were three people with gunshot wounds among them. She added that among the wounded there was an MP from eastern Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan army on Sunday denied that it opened fire on protesters yesterday “with the intent to cause deliberate harm” in response to social media videos suggesting the army fired on protesters near the Rajapaksa residence.

The army categorically denies firing on the protesters, but fired several rounds into the air and on the side walls of the main gate on the grounds of the President’s House as a deterrent to prevent protesters from entering the grounds. says in the statement.

Meanwhile, two policemen involved in apparent attacks on the press have been suspended, according to an audio statement by Sri Lanka Police Inspector General CD Vikremaratne, which was broadcast on national television.

A Sri Lankan television station reported that six of its journalists were attacked by the Sri Lanka Police Special Forces near the prime minister’s private residence.

Two journalists from the Sri Lankan television channel Newsfirst had their cameras on at the time. Video shared by Newsfirst shows police pushing two journalists to the ground during a standoff late Saturday night. According to Newsfirst, fellow journalists who rushed to their aid were also attacked.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe also condemned the attacks on the media.

“Freedom of the media is paramount to democracy in Sri Lanka,” he said, asking both security forces and protesters to “act with restraint to prevent any violence and ensure the safety of the population.”

Sri Lanka’s media freedom advocacy group Free Media Movement has called for an investigation into the police attack on journalists, saying “the perpetrators responsible for these brutal attacks” must be held accountable.

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