Protesters in Sri Lanka set fire to the residence of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Newswire reported, citing the Prime Minister’s office.
“Protesters broke into the private residence of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and set it on fire,” the prime minister’s office said.
Earlier on Saturday, the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka agreed to resign, however, as his press service clarified, this will happen only after the formation of a new government, in which all parties of the country will be Details: Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said that he informed Rajapaksa of the decision taken at the meeting of the leaders of the parliamentary parties, asking him to leave his post, and he agreed.
However, Rajapaksa will remain president until Wednesday to ensure a smooth transfer of power, Abeywardena added.
The announcement comes hours after protesters stormed the president’s official residence to express their anger at the country’s severe economic crisis. Protesters also broke into the prime minister’s private residence and set it on fire.
On July 9, thousands of protests engulfed the capital of Sri Lanka. Instead of the planned peaceful march, the protesters broke through the police cordons and seized the palace of the head of state. Local media write that neither Rajapaksa nor Vikramasinghe was in their homes when the buildings were attacked.
Protesters demanded the resignation of President Gotabai Rajapaksa:
On Saturday, thousands of protesters gathered in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s largest city, demanding the resignation of President Gotabai Rajapaksa. The day before, the military and police had been drawn into the city; Authorities announced a curfew on Friday evening to thwart the protesters, but this had no effect – the demonstrators were even alleged to have forced railroad workers to send trains to Colombo in defiance of orders. In the end, the measure was canceled.
The protesters clashed with the police and broke into the president’s residence and his office (the president himself, according to unofficial data, was evacuated and is under military guard). The police tried to disperse the crowd with tear gas and shots in the air. More than 30 people were injured in the clashes. Photos and videos from the occupied buildings went viral: in particular, a video showing a breakthrough of thousands of demonstrators to the office building and a video of protesters in the presidential pool was widely distributed.
Urgent meeting called by Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe:
Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe, heading the government for the sixth time, called an urgent meeting of leaders of political parties. Politicians have said that both the president and the prime minister should step down. Wickramasinghe, according to a statement from his office, expressed his willingness to do so “for the safety of the citizens” and to enable an all-party government to be formed.
Later, protesters set fire to Ranil Wickramasinghe’s house. Where he is unknown.
In the evening, the Speaker of the Sri Lankan Parliament stated that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had informed him of his intention to step down on 13 July.
The leaders of political parties gathered for an emergency meeting, as a result of which they called on the president and the prime minister to resign, appoint the speaker of parliament as the interim head of state, elect a new president from members of parliament within 30 days, and appoint an interim all-party government and hold elections in the near future.
The numbers of people injured and hospitalized:
At least 39 people, including two police officers, were injured and hospitalized during the protests, hospital sources told Reuters.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe also said he was ready to step down, his office said in a statement Saturday evening. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa could fly out of the country.
Since its independence in 1948, the country is facing the worst economic crisis:
Since its independence in 1948, the country is facing the worst economic crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has hit the tourism sector, a key source of foreign exchange, as a result of which the authorities cannot provide the country with fuel. In Sri Lanka, there was a shortage of food, basic necessities, medicines, and gas. Power is intermittent in many areas.
AP notes that Sri Lanka’s economy is in a state of collapse, relying on help from India and other countries, the country’s leaders are trying to negotiate assistance with the International Monetary Fund. The economic crisis has led to a severe shortage of basic necessities, making it difficult for people to buy food, fuel, etc.
The riots have led to months of protests that have all but wiped out the Rajapaksa political dynasty that has ruled Sri Lanka for most of the past two decades.
A short list of unsuccessful steps taken by the Sri Lankan authorities that led to economic collapse and protests
Since gaining independence from Britain in 1948, Sri Lanka’s economy has been based on the export of tea, coffee, rubber, and spices. Funds from international transactions formed the basis of the country’s GDP and, together with income from tourism, went to import necessary goods.
Reduction in exports threatened a currency crisis:
The slightest reduction in exports threatened a currency crisis, so the authorities of the country since 1965 had to take loans from the International Monetary Fund 16 times. After receiving another loan, the Sri Lankan government was obliged to reduce the budget deficit, maintain a strict monetary policy, minimize food subsidies for citizens and depreciate the exchange rate. Under such conditions, the authorities failed to stabilize the economy, and each subsequent payment only drove the country deeper into debt.
Tourism revenue plummeted in 2019 following a series of attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka’s largest city, Colombo. According to some sources, the number of tourists in the country has decreased by 80%, which has led to an unprecedented depletion of foreign exchange reserves.
In addition, the current President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa (brother of former President and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa), has introduced sweeping tax reforms since winning elections in 2019 in the hope of gaining popular support and boosting domestic money circulation. Value added tax was reduced from 15% to 8%, corporate taxes from 28% to 24%, and property tax, income tax, and commission fees were abolished altogether.
The ill-advised changes have reduced government revenue by more than $1.4 billion a year. “The post-election tax cuts came as a surprise to us,” said Nandalal Weerasinghe, one of the country’s leading financiers, who took over as Sri Lankan central bank governor in April this year, in an interview with Reuters. “No one consulted with us.”
Why did Sri Lanka decide to cut taxes at a difficult time?
Tax cuts were not the only unusual (if not eccentric) government reform. To stem the outflow of foreign currency, last year the government completely banned imports of fertilizers and declared Sri Lankan farming to be 100% organic.
As a result of radical measures, a crop failure occurred in the country, due to which the state had to make even more active purchases abroad. The lack of tea and rubber for sale due to the fertilizer ban caused a food crisis, and the country’s budget no longer allowed to import all the necessary goods. In turn, the shortage of goods with continued high demand made a jump in prices inevitable – in February 2022, inflation in Sri Lanka amounted to 17.5%.
Inflation has driven food prices up. By April, the price per kilogram of rice had risen from 80 rupees (about $0.34) to 500 (about $2.10), and a 400-gram pack of powdered milk had gone from the usual 60 rupees ($0.25) to 250 rupees (more dollar). In July, food inflation reached 57%, and 70% of families admit that they began to eat worse because of the need to save money.
Many residents are sure that it will not be possible to change the situation for the better while the president and his family remain in power. Among the reasons for the crisis, opposition-minded residents name the irremovability of leaders. Mahinda Rajapaksa led the country from 2005 to 2015 (and worked as prime minister for several more years), and his brother Gotabaya, after winning in 2019, attracted other relatives to rule the country: two other brothers, Basil and Shamal, led, respectively, the ministries of finance and irrigation, and the nephew of the head of state became the minister of sports.
Recent years have been marked by conflicts between family members: President Gotabaya and Mahinda, who worked until May as prime minister, fought for influence and the status of a national leader. As the crisis deepened, Gotabaya put more and more pressure on his brother to resign; Mahinda resisted. The heads of departments appointed by the president argued with ministers from Mahinda’s cabinet on any issue.
The Rajapaksa failed to avert the crisis, but in 2020 they pushed through a constitutional amendment to make it harder for independent commissions to investigate corruption and expanded the president’s powers over the judiciary.
“Sri Lanka is in danger of total annihilation,” said Maithripala Sirisena, who served as president from 2015 to 2019. “The country has learned the lesson of how political dynasties do business.”
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Sri Lanka’s prime minister’s home