Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigns amid economic crisis, curfew imposed till Wednesday

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Colombo: Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on Monday resigned from his post amid severe economic crisis in Sri Lanka.

Hours before the development, army personnel were deployed in the capital Colombo after supporters of Mahinda Rajapaksa attacked protesters outside President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office. At least 173 people were injured in the violence. Four people, including an MP of the Rajapaksa brothers’ ruling party, were killed in clashes between government supporters and opponents in the country.

Mahinda Rajapakse (76) sent his resignation letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. “I have submitted my resignation to the President with immediate effect,” Mahinda tweeted.

In his resignation letter, Prime Minister Mahinda said he was stepping down to pave the way for the formation of an all-party interim government. He wrote in his resignation letter, “I want to inform (you) that I have decided to resign from the post of Prime Minister with immediate effect. This is in line with your request in the special cabinet meeting held on May 6, in which you said that you want to form an all-party interim government.

Mahinda said he was ready to make “any sacrifice” for the sake of the people. With the resignation of the Prime Minister, the cabinet was also dissolved.

The demonstrations were being held to pressure the government led by Mahinda Rajapaksa’s younger brother and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to form an interim administration to deal with the ongoing economic crisis in the country.

Meanwhile, the authorities extended the curfew imposed from 7 pm on Monday till 7 am on Wednesday. Army teams have been deployed at the protest site to help maintain law and order.

The Defense Secretary has urged public support to maintain peace in the country, while three armed forces have been called in to assist the police for public safety. Leave of all policemen has been canceled till further orders.

Violence erupted across the country after supporters of Mahinda Rajapaksa attacked protesters. People vented anger on Rajapaksa’s supporters returning from the capital.

Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MP Amarkirthi Atukorala (57) from Polonnarua district was cornered by an anti-government group in the western town of Nittambua, police said.

Police said the MP was fired from his car and when an agitated mob drove him out of the car, he fled and took shelter in a building. Police said the MP and his personal security officer (PSO) were later found dead.

Angry mobs have attacked former minister Johnson Fernando’s offices in Kurunegala and Colombo.

Former minister Nimal Lanja’s residence was also attacked while Mayor Saman Lal Fernando’s residence was set ablaze.

The residence of the ruling party’s labor leader Mahinda Kahandagamage in Colombo was also attacked.

Sri Lanka is going through the most severe economic crisis ever since its independence from Britain in 1948. The crisis arose mainly because of the shortage of foreign exchange which means that the country is unable to pay for the imports of staple food items and fuels.

Thousands of protesters have been on the streets across Sri Lanka since April 9, as the government ran out of funds for imports. The prices of essential commodities are skyrocketing.

Earlier on Monday, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appealed to the public to exercise restraint. In a tweet, the President said, “I appeal to the general public to exercise restraint and remember that violence will only lead to violence. In an economic crisis, we need an economic solution, which this administration is committed to solving.

Mahinda Rajapaksa also urged people to exercise restraint.

According to the news of the online news portal ‘Daily Mirror’, supporters of the Prime Minister attacked the protesters outside the protest site ‘Managogama’ near his official residence ‘Temple Trees’. After that the situation became tense.

According to the ‘Heeru News’ website, the police used water cannons to disperse the supporters of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). According to leading news network ‘Lanka First’, the mob uprooted the tents in front of ‘Temple Trees’.

Leader of the opposition Samagi Jan Balvegaya Sajith Premadasa visited the protest site to assess the situation.

Opposition sources said Premadasa and his associates were also attacked by a group as they reached the protest site of the President’s Secretariat. The opposition accused Mahinda Rajapaksa of instigating his supporters.

According to the newspaper ‘Colombo Page’, hundreds of supporters of the Prime Minister were brought in buses, while some others marched to the ‘Temple Trees’ against the call for the Prime Minister’s resignation.

Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe condemned the attack on the protesters.

Meanwhile, in the wake of violence, Sri Lankan airlines on Monday urged passengers to show their air tickets and passports at checkpoints to reach Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA).

“In view of the prevailing situation in Sri Lanka, passengers departing from Colombo can show their air tickets and passports to security personnel at the checkpoints to reach BIA,” Sri Lankan Airlines tweeted assuring passengers, especially foreign passengers.

Significantly, in a special cabinet meeting on Friday, President Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency from midnight on Friday. This is the second time a state of emergency has been declared in Sri Lanka in a span of almost a month.


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