Sri Lanka on cusp of another civil war? PM Mahinda Rajapaksa's residence set on fire, nationwide curfew imposed till Wednesday

Moreover, two people were shot dead and five others were left injured at the residence of the Chairman of the Weeraketiya Pradeshiya Sabha, local police informed.

Published: 09th May 2022 10:07 PM  |   Last Updated: 10th May 2022 08:00 AM   |  A+A-

Sri Lanka's pro government and anti government protestors clash amid tear gas outside the president's office in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, May 9, 2022. (Photo | AP)


COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned on Monday after clinging on to power for weeks, following unprecedented anti-government protests demanding his ouster as well as the administration led by his younger brother and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa over the country's worst economic crisis that led to acute shortages of staple food, fuel and power.

Mahinda's resignation came hours after his supporters attacked anti-regime protesters outside President Gotabaya's office, leaving around 173 people injured and triggering widespread violence against pro-Rajapaksa politicians.

At least four people, including a ruling party MP, were killed in the subsequent violence.

Prime Minister Mahinda, 76, sent his resignation letter to President Gotabaya after violent scenes were witnessed in Colombo.

Mahinda in his resignation letter said that he is stepping down to pave the way for the All-Party Interim Government to be formed.

He said that he will be "ready to make any sacrifice even in the future in order to help the people and the government overcome the present crisis."

He said he hoped that his resignation would help resolve the current crisis, but the move is highly unlikely to satisfy government opponents while his 72-year-old younger brother Gotabaya remains in power.

The Cabinet was also dissolved with the resignation of the Prime Minister.

"To find solutions to the current socio-economic and political and problems, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa invites all parties representing parliament to join in a national unity government," a statement from his office said.

"President asks all citizens to maintain peace," it added.

Meanwhile, authorities extended the island-wide curfew imposed from 7.00pm on Monday till 7.00am on Wednesday.

Earlier, Mahinda's supporters attacked anti-government protesters at MynaGoGama and GotaGoGama protest sites.

The tents opposite Temple Trees, the official residence of the prime minister, were dismantled by a mob.

Police used water cannons to disperse the unruly ruling party protestors.

The police formed a human chain to prevent the protesters from entering GotaGoGama.

However, the mob pushed their way past the police human chain and attacked GotaGoGama.

Around 173 people were injured in the attack.

Army troops were deployed to the protest sites to bring the situation under control.

Curfew, which was initially declared in the national capital, was imposed islandwide with immediate effect, a police spokesperson said.

The defence secretary urged public support to maintain peace in the country, while three-armed forces have been called in to assist police for public security.

Leave for all police personnel was cancelled until further notice.

However, the violence against anti-government protesters triggered widespread anger, with people turning their wrath on Rajapaksa supporters.

The vehicles carrying supporters of Prime Minister Mahinda were stopped and attacked.

According to local media, police fired tear gas twice to disperse a mob that attempted to force their way into Temple Trees.

Prime Minister Mahinda's House in Kurunegala and his ancestral home in Medamulana were set on fire by protesters while a mob also destroyed D A Rajapaksa Memorial - constructed in the memory of the father of Mahinda and Gotabaya - in Medamulana, Hambantota.

Amarakeerthi Athukorala, a Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MP from the Polonnaruwa district who was surrounded by anti-government groups at the north western town of Nittambuwa, opened fire on protesters.

When the angry mobs toppled the car, he fled and took refuge in a building and committed suicide by pulling his own revolver.

Later, the lawmaker and his personal security officer were found dead, the police said.

In a separate case, two people were killed and nine others injured in a shooting at the residence of the Chairman of the Weeraketiya Pradeshiya Sabha, police said.

The offices and properties of several former ministers and pro-Rajapaksa politicians were set on fire in many parts of the country.

Sri Lanka is currently in the throes of unprecedented economic turmoil since its independence from Britain in 1948.

The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.

Thousands of demonstrators have hit the streets across Sri Lanka since April 9 seeking resignation of President Gotabaya and Prime Minister Mahinda, as the government ran out of money for vital imports; prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed and there are acute shortages in fuel, medicines and electricity supply.

Earlier, President Gotabaya and Prime Minister Mahinda appealed to the people to exercise restraint and remember that violence only begets violence, saying the economic crisis needs an economic solution which his government is committed to resolving.

"Strongly condemn the violent acts taking place by those inciting & participating, irrespective of political allegiances. Violence won't solve the current problems. I request all citizens to remain calm & exercise restraint. I urge everyone to work together in solving this crisis," he said in a tweet.

Mahinda also urged the people to exercise restraint.

"While emotions are running high in #lka, I urge our general public to exercise restraint & remember that violence only begets violence. The economic crisis we're in needs an economic solution which this administration is committed to resolving," he tweeted.

Former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe condemned the attack on the peaceful demonstrators.

Opposition leader of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya Sajith Premadasa visited the GotaGoGama protest site to assess the situation.

The Opposition sources said a group had also attacked Premadasa and his colleagues as he arrived at the presidential secretariat protest site.

It accused Mahinda of instigating his supporters.

The 'MainaGoGama' protest site was set up demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Mahinda.

Peaceful protesters had been camped here for 31 days, demanding the resignation of the president.

In a special Cabinet meeting on Friday, President Gotabaya had declared a state of emergency with effect from Friday midnight.

This was the second time that an emergency was declared in Sri Lanka in just over a month as the island nation was in the grip of the worst economic crisis.


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