Sri Lanka’s anger turns into prime minister after the president’s escape

Thousands of protesters have demanded that the prime minister, appointed as acting president, also resign to protect Rajapaxus.

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled yesterday without resigning, plunging a country already upset by economic turmoil into more political turmoil.

Protesters demanding a change in leadership trained the prime minister in anger and attacked the prime minister’s office.

Rajapaksa and his wife set out on an Air Force plane to the Maldives — and he appointed Prime Minister Rajapaksa Machinha as acting president in his absence.

Photo: Reuters

It looked like more enthusiasm for the island nation, which had been seized for months by the economic collapse that caused a serious shortage of food and fuel.

Thousands of protesters who expected Wickremesinghe to be appointed acting president gathered outside his office and expanded the wall.

The crowd roared its support and threw a water bottle at the charging people.

After that, I could see dozens of people standing in the office or on the roof terrace waving the Sri Lankan flag. This is the latest in a series of acquisitions of government buildings by demonstrators seeking a new government.

“You need both to get home,” said Supun Eranga, a 28-year-old civil servant in the crowd. “Ranil couldn’t fulfill what he had promised in two months, so he had to quit. All he had to do was try to protect Rajapaxus.”

However, Wickremesinghe, who declared a state of emergency, appeared on television and repeatedly did not leave until the new government was inaugurated. And it wasn’t clear when that would happen.

He fled, but Rajapaksa has not resigned yet, but the chairman of Congress said the president had promised him that he would be late that day.

Police initially tried to use tear gas to disperse protesters outside the Prime Minister’s Office, but failed and marched further down the lane toward the complex.

As the helicopter flew overhead, some demonstrators lifted their middle finger.

In the end, security forces seemed to give up, some withdrew from the area, and others simply stood around the overkill grounds.

Inside the building, people spread out on elegant sofas, watching TV and holding mock meetings in a wooden panel meeting room, which made us feel festive. Some people wandered as if they were visiting a museum.

“We cook here, eat here, live here. Stay up to. [Wickremesinghe] Lahill Ishara, 32, a supervisor at the Colombo supermarket, said he has been involved in protests since it began in April. “There is no other choice.”

Over the weekend, protesters seized the president’s house and office, and the prime minister’s office after months of demonstrations that almost dismantled the Rajapaksa political dynasty, which had ruled Sri Lanka for most of the last two decades.

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