Sri Lankan protesters hold mock Cabinet meeting at Prez House

Rajapaksa, 73, appears to have gone underground in the face of massive public anger over the unprecedented economic crisis since the country became independent in 1948.
Sri Lankan protestors picketing at the President House
Sri Lankan protestors picketing at the President HouseReuters

COLOMBO: Anti-government protesters occupying the residence of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa here on Sunday held a mock Cabinet meeting and ''discussions with the IMF'' to ridicule the government led by him, a day after they stormed into the complex in fury over the nation's crippling economic crisis. The public flocked to the Presidential Secretariat, President's House and Temple Trees, the official residence of the prime minister after they were taken over by protestors on Saturday.

The protesters said they would not leave until Rajapaksa resigned. In the mock Cabinet meeting, the protesters discussed the arson attack on Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's house.

They held a mock IMF discussion involving a foreigner who had visited the premises along with the other protestors.

On Saturday, the protesters were seen in the bedrooms and splashing around in the swimming pool of the President's House.

Rajapaksa, 73, appears to have gone underground in the face of massive public anger over the unprecedented economic crisis since the country became independent in 1948.

He informed Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena from an undisclosed location that he will step down on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has also offered to resign.

The cash-starved island nation witnessed a tumultuous day on Saturday when protesters broke into Rajapaksa's official residence in Colombo. Protesters did not spare Prime Minister Wickremesinghe despite his offer to resign and set on fire his private residence in an affluent neighbourhood in the capital. Wickremesinghe on Saturday expressed willingness to resign when a new government is formed.

He stressed that to deal with the International Monetary Fund on an assistance programme and to deal with shortages of essentials including food and fuel, it was important not to leave a vacuum.

In May, President Rajapaksa's elder brother and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had to quit in the face of massive anti-government protests.

The Rajapaksa brothers, Mahinda and Gotabaya, were hailed by many in Sri Lanka as heroes for winning the civil war against the LTTE but they are now blamed for the country's worst economic crisis.

Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million people, is under the grip of an unprecedented economic turmoil, the worst in seven decades, crippled by an acute shortage of foreign exchange that has left it struggling to pay for essential imports of fuel, and other essentials.

The country, with an acute foreign currency crisis that resulted in foreign debt default, had announced in April that it is suspending nearly USD 7 billion foreign debt repayment due for this year out of about USD 25 billion due through 2026. Sri Lanka's total foreign debt stands at USD 51 billion.

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