By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
COLOMBO (Worthy News) – The president of bankrupt Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, will resign Wednesday amid violent protests against his rule, the parliament speaker said.
Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena explained in a televised statement late Saturday that he told Rajapaksa of a decision by party leaders requesting he leave office. Rajapaksa agreed to step down Wednesday, allowing a few days for a smooth transition of power, the parliament speaker added.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said earlier Saturday that he decided to resign, but it wasn’t immediately known when.
The announcements came after protesters stormed the president’s residence and later burned the prime minister’s home as Sri Lanka officially declared bankruptcy this week.
Infuriated by the worst economic crisis in years, tens of thousands of protestors broke through barricades, many entering President Rajapaksa’s residence and nearby office, witnesses said.
Those participating in the largest protest yet expressed fury against a leader they hold responsible for the nation’s troubles.
Many protesters could be seen packing into rooms and corridors, shouting slogans against the beleaguered 73-year-old president.
Footage of demonstrators standing and some bathing in the swimming pool inside the president’s home was widely circulated on social media. They entered the President’s House in the capital Colombo after the leader had already been evacuated to an unknown location.
Many protestors were spotted on the grounds outside the colonial-era white-washed building. No security officials were visible.
Thousands of protesters also broke open the gates of the sea-front presidential secretariat and the finance ministry, which has been the site of a sit-in protest for months, and entered the premises, TV footage showed.
Military personnel and police at both locations could not hold back the crowd as they chanted slogans asking Rajapaksa to step down.
“Today is independence day for me being born in this nation, not 1948 because today we have fought for our freedom from the tyranny and the scoundrels and greedy politicians who have run our nation to ground zero,” a protector said.
Much public outcry has been directed at the Rajapaksa family, with rioters blaming them for dragging Sri Lanka into chaos with poor management and allegations of corruption.
But demonstrators also burned down the prime minister’s residence later in the day amid mounting anger about the political elite’s failure to prevent social unrest.
The economic meltdown has led to severe shortages of essential items, leaving people struggling to buy food, fuel, and other necessities.
Sri Lanka had received aid from India and other countries as its leaders tried negotiating a bailout with the International Monetary Fund, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the crisis.
The turmoil led to months of protests, nearly dismantling the Rajapaksa political dynasty ruling Sri Lanka for most of the past two decades.
The president’s older brother resigned as prime minister in May after violent rallies saw him seek safety at a naval base.
Saturday’s tensions were likely to add to pressure on minority Christians in the Buddhist majority nation. Besides economic difficulties, they already faced persecution, including deadly church bombings in recent years.
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