Sri Lanka hopes to install a new government after a day of chaos and rage | New

Colombia, Sri Lanka – There is calm in the streets of Sri Lanka, a day after protesters stormed the president’s residence and torched the prime minister’s house, forcing the two leaders to announce their resignation due to aggravation of the economic crisis in the country.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is expected to step down on Wednesday, marking a dramatic end to the powerful clan’s hold on Sri Lankan politics for more than two decades.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who took office just two months ago, has also offered to step down to allow a multi-party caretaker government to take over.

Firefighters attempt to extinguish a blaze at the Sri Lankan Prime Minister’s private residence in Colombo [Eranga Jayawardana/AP Photo]

Rajapaksa, 73, urged people to allow a peaceful transition of power, which he plans to oversee before leaving office.

A meeting of political party leaders is scheduled for Sunday, with opposition politicians claiming they have a parliamentary majority to form an interim government.

“We need a change. This is not how we deserve to live. The leaders are responsible for what happened to this country,” protester K Chandra told Al Jazeera.

Following the resignations of the President and Prime Minister, the Speaker of Parliament, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, is expected to take over as interim President in accordance with the constitution of Sri Lanka.

Demonstrators protest inside the premises of the President's House
Demonstrators protest inside the President’s house in Colombo [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]

Sunday morning, many demonstrators were still camping in the official residence of the president. They cooked, played the piano and even had fun playing cards and carrom in the house.

Residents visited the site. A woman who came with her two teenage daughters told Al Jazeera she wanted to see how presidents lived. “We didn’t see what their lifestyle was like. I wanted to see for myself,” she said.

Meanwhile, police said they arrested more than 3,000 people in connection with protests on Saturday.

Officials say at least 50 people, including police officers, were injured during the protests. Journalists were also assaulted by security forces during protests.

Bhavani Fonseka of the Center for Policy Alternatives said the burning of the prime minister’s residence by protesters was a worrying development.

“Violence is not the answer to the problem. Citizens should respect each other,” he told Al Jazeera.

Fonseka said the resignation announced by the leaders must take place, but should not cause a political vacuum.

“We won’t stop”

For months, the demands of the people, angry at the country’s worst economic crisis in 70 years, have been loud and clear. The slogan “Gota Go Home” was a constant call, referring to the embattled president.

Protesters massed in the Galle Face area of ​​the capital Colombo’s waterfront on Saturday, where thousands of people had been camping for months, calling on the president to resign over his handling of the economic crisis.

Protesters demanding the resignation of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa
Protesters swim in a pool inside the president’s house in Colombo [AFP]

As soon as they entered the president’s colonial-era residence, images and videos of them bathing in the compound’s pool and some even watching a game of cricket on television went viral on social networks. social networks.

“We won’t stop until Gota leaves,” one protester told Al Jazeera to applause from his companions.

Nishan de Mel, executive director of Verité Research, said Sri Lanka’s problems cannot be solved quickly. “But they can certainly be diverted to a better path than what is happening today,” he told Al Jazeera.

He said one of the fundamental problems in Sri Lanka’s leadership was endemic corruption.

“I think with a multi-party government, it is expected to be a caretaker government that will end the current trend of corruption and bad decisions and steer Sri Lanka in the right direction,” he said. he said, adding that it would create new and better leadership.

Sri Lanka’s economic crisis began earlier this year after its government suspended foreign loan repayments due to a shortage of foreign currency. The country is holding bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and is counting on help from India and other countries.

Many believe that the long-awaited IMF bailout could be delayed due to the political crisis. IMF officials told reporters they hoped the situation in Sri Lanka would improve.

“We are closely following the ongoing developments in Sri Lanka. We hope for a resolution of the current situation that will allow us to resume our dialogue on an IMF-supported program,” they said, reaffirming their commitment to support Sri Lanka.

Political analyst Aruna Kulatunga said whoever took on the task of rebuilding and stabilizing Sri Lanka would not only be hard work but also “dangerous” work.

“The many pitfalls ahead could include decisions to be made about whether or not we go for an IMF-backed debt rescheduling or will we just decide to be a pariah state and just stop acknowledging our debt to the rest of the world and seek refuge in the geopolitical game by seeking help from other nations that are not at the heart of the global economy,” he told Al Jazeera.

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