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Sri Lankan PM resigns over economic crisis

This post has been read 14697 times!

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, May 9, (AP): Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned Monday following weeks of protests demanding that he and his brother, the president, step down over the country’s worst economic crisis in decades. Rajapaksa said on Twitter that he submitted his resignation to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Sri Lankan government supporters cheer after vandalizing the site of anti-government protest outside prime minister’s residence in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, May 9, 2022. (AP)

There was no immediate comment from the president’s office. The resignation comes after authorities deployed armed troops in the capital, Colombo, on Monday following an attack earlier in the day by government supporters on protesters who have been camped outside the offices of the president and prime minster. The violence triggered widespread anger, with people singling out Rajapaksa supporters and attacking them in many parts of the country. Buses carrying the supporters back from the morning meeting were blocked and also attacked.

Homes of some government ministers and politicians supporting the Rajapaksas were attacked and some set on fire. The Indian Ocean island nation is on the brink of bankruptcy and has suspended payments on its foreign loans. For several months, Sri Lankans have endured long lines to buy scarce fuel, cooking gas, food and medicine, most of which come from abroad. Shortages of hard currency have also hindered imports of raw materials for manufacturing and worsened inflation. As oil prices soar during the Russia- Ukraine conflict, Sri Lanka’s fuel stocks are running out.

Authorities have announced countrywide power cuts because they can’t supply enough fuel to power stations. The economic woes have brought on a political crisis, with the government facing widespread protests and a no-confidence motion in Parliament. Trade unions also called Monday for a general strike until the president and the rest of his ruling family leave. The president has so far refused to resign and Parliament must go through a difficult process if it attempts to oust him. The resignation of the prime minister means that the entire Cabinet is dissolved. Supporters of the prime minister rallied inside his office earlier Monday, urging him to ignore the protesters’ demand to step down.

Rajapaksa told them in a meeting that he is used to protests and revolts and would not run away from challenges. After the gathering, the Rajapaksa supporters went to the front of the prime minister’s official residence where protesters have been demonstrating for several days. They attacked the protesters with wooden and iron poles, pulled their camping tents down and set them on fire as police looked on. The attack occurred despite a state of emergency declared by the president last Friday which gives him wide powers for riot control. After demolishing the protest site opposite the prime minister’s residence, the mob proceeded to the entrance to the president’s office where people have camped out for the past month. Riot police were deployed with tear gas launchers and several water cannons, but did not use them and let the mobs breach several barriers and march toward the president’s office, where they attacked the protesters away and set their camps on fire.

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