'He was our Nero': Sri Lanka policeman sacked for playing piano while president fled

Constable R. M. D. Dayaratne was deployed to help protect the colonial-era residence on the day it was taken over by protesters, instead, he sat at a grand piano in the compound and played a song.
A man plays the piano at the Prime Minister's official residence after it was stormed in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on July 11, 2022. (File | AP)
A man plays the piano at the Prime Minister's official residence after it was stormed in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on July 11, 2022. (File | AP)

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's police force said Friday it had sacked an officer who entertained protesters with an impromptu piano performance after they stormed the island nation's presidential compound last year.

Constable R. M. D. Dayaratne was deployed to help protect the colonial-era residence on the day it was taken over by protesters who forced then-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country.

Instead, he sat at a grand piano in the compound and played a song to the crowd streaming through its rooms.

"Dayaratne was on social media playing the piano while the building was being vandalised," a senior officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

"He was our Nero," the officer added, referring to the ancient Roman emperor said to have played the fiddle while the city burned in a weeklong fire.

Police authorities concluded that the constable had breached discipline after a lengthy investigation.

Before the compound was stormed in July 2022, protesters had been camped outside Rajapaksa's office for months demanding he step down over the island nation's unprecedented economic crisis.

Protesters seized the residence and were later seen frolicking in the presidential pool and jumping on Rajapaksa's four-poster bed.

Rajapaksa was accused of precipitating corruption and mismanagement that triggered the downturn, which led to severe shortages of food, fuel and medicines.

He was forced to seek temporary exile in Singapore, from where he issued his resignation, though he has since returned to Sri Lanka.

His successor, Ranil Wickremesinghe, has offered an amnesty to those returning historic artefacts stolen from the building.

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