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Sri Lanka protesters vow to stay in President Rajapaksa's home until he quits

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By Euronews  with AP, Reuters
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Protesters pretend to hold a cabinet meeting after occupying the president's official residence a day after it was stormed in Colombo, Sri Lanka, July 10, 2022.
Protesters pretend to hold a cabinet meeting after occupying the president's official residence a day after it was stormed in Colombo, Sri Lanka, July 10, 2022.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena

Protesters in Sri Lanka on Sunday showed no sign of leaving the home of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa which they occupied on Saturday.

They insist they will stay at the residences of the president and prime minister until both of them resign.

Rajapaksa has said he will stand down on Wednesday but demonstrators say they are determined not to leave until that happens.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe originally said he would leave office once a new government is in place, but hours later the speaker of Parliament said president would step down on Wednesday.

"It's happy to see how we actually gained freedom and we got through this rigid presidency that was ruling the country," one of the protesters told reporters.

"This president and the prime minister should have stepped down long time ago but they resist people's struggle. So, I think we have about 90 percent victory, so let's wait till the 100 percent achievement."

But protesters appeared set for the long haul; distributing food and drink to others at the president's residence, occupying rooms and swimming in the pool.

Sri Lanka's opposition parties met on Sunday in a bid to form a new government.

Months of demonstrations have all but dismantled the Rajapaksa political dynasty, which has ruled Sri Lanka for most of the past two decades.

The island of 22 million people is struggling under a severe foreign exchange shortage that has limited essential imports of fuel, food and medicine. A ban on the import of chemical fertilisers last year devastated agriculture.

The crisis comes after COVID-19 hammered the tourism-reliant economy and slashed remittances from overseas workers.

Discontent has worsened in recent weeks as the cash-strapped country stopped receiving fuel shipments, forcing school closures and rationing of petrol and diesel for essential services.