Sri Lanka's president and prime minister to resign after tumultuous protests
Sri Lanka's president and prime minister agreed to resign Saturday after the country's most chaotic day in months of political turmoil, with crowds storming both officials' homes and setting fire to one of the buildings in a rage over the nation's severe economic crisis.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he will leave office once a new government is in place, and hours later the speaker of Parliament said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa would step down Wednesday.
Pressure on both men grew as the economic meltdown set off acute shortages of essential items, leaving people struggling to buy food, fuel and other necessities
Police had attempted to thwart promised protests with a curfew, then lifted it as lawyers and opposition politicians denounced it as illegal. Thousands of people entered the capital, Colombo, and swarmed into Rajapaksa's fortified residence.
Video images showed jubilant crowds splashing in the garden pool, lying on beds and using their cellphone cameras to capture the moment. Some made tea, while others issued statements from a conference room demanding that the president and prime minister go.
It was not clear if Rajapaksa was there at the time, and government spokesman Mohan Samaranayake said he had no information about the president's movements.
Protesters later broke into the prime minister's private residence and set it on fire, Wickremesinghe's office said. It wasn't immediately clear if he was there when the incursion happened.
Earlier, police fired tear gas at protesters who gathered in the streets to march on the presidential residence, waving flags, banging drums and chanting slogans. In all, more than 30 people were hurt in Saturday's chaos.
Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said in a televised statement that he informed Rajapaksa that parliamentary leaders had met and decided to request he leave office, and the president agreed. However Rajapaksa will remain temporarily to ensure a smooth transfer of power, Abeywardena added.
"He asked me to inform the country that he will make his resignation on Wednesday the 13th, because there is a need to hand over power peacefully," Abeywardena said.
"Therefore there is no need for further disturbances in the country, and I urge everyone for the sake of the country to maintain peace to enable a smooth transition," the speaker continued.