Many protesters in Sri Lanka’s capital city Colombo have pushed through police barricades and stormed into the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s residence on Saturday, in one of the biggest protests against government happening in the troubled nation this year.
A group of protesters, armed with Sri Lankan flags and helmets have broken into the residence of the president footage of local news on the local TV the NewsFirst channel revealed.
Two sources in the ministry of defence claimed that the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was removed from the official residence on Friday to ensure his safety in advance of the planned rally on the weekend.
A live stream on Facebook of the presidential residence included hundreds of protesters, with flags draped over them, crowding into corridors and rooms and shouting slogans against Rajapaksa.
Many also gathered around the area outside the whitewashed colonial-era building. Security officials were not present.
At at least 21 people, including two police officers, were injured and treated in the continuing protests, hospital officials said to Reuters.
The country of 22 million inhabitants is battling a major currency shortage that is limiting imports of food, fuel and medical supplies, sending into the most severe economy crisis since the independence of 1948.
Many blame the country’s declining fortunes on the president Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The majority of peaceful protests in March have called for his resignation.
A crowd of thousands gathered in Colombo’s Government District and chanted slogans against the president, and tearing down numerous police barricades in order to get into Rajapaksa’s home as according to a Reuters reporter told.
Police fired shots into the air, but they failed to keep the crowd of angry protesters from blocking the presidential residence, a witness claimed.
Reuters did not immediately confirm the location of the president.
The Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe summoned an emergency gathering of the political party’s leaders following the president’s residence was surrounded by protesters. The prime minister also asked the speaker to call a meeting of parliament, a statement by the office of the prime minister said.
Despite a serious shortage of fuel that has stopped transportation , thousands of demonstrators piled into trains, buses, and trucks from different areas of the country arrive at Colombo to protest against the government’s inability to shield the economy from ruin.
In recent weeks, as the country’s cash-strapped economy stopped receiving fuel deliveries, resulting in schools to close and rationing diesel and petrol for the most essential services.
Sampath Perera, a 37-year-old fisherman, took a crowded bus from Negombo, a town on the coast of Negombo 45km to the north of Colombo to take part in the demonstration.
“We have repeatedly told Gota time and time again to leave but he’s still holding to his the power. We won’t stop until he is listening to our demands,” Perera said.
He is one of the millions who are impacted by fuel shortages and inflation that topped 54.6 percent in June.
Political instability may undermine Sri Lanka’s discussions to the International Monetary Fund seeking a $3 billion bailout. It also proposes a restructuring of some debts from foreign creditors and fund-raising through multilateral and bilateral sources to alleviate the dollar shortage.