Live updates: Sri Lanka in turmoil as protests rise


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Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has agreed to step down after what appears to be one of the biggest protests since months of demonstrations sparked by the country’s economic crisis.CreditCredit…Chamila Karunaratne/EPA, via Shutterstock

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, whose family has dominated Sri Lankan politics for much of the past two decades, has agreed to step down after months of protests that accused him of devastating the island nation’s economy through corruption and mismanagement. This was announced on Saturday by the speaker of the country’s parliament.

Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, speaker of parliament and ally of the president, announced developments at the end of a chaotic day. Protesters entered the president’s residence and office, and thousands more poured into the Colombo capital to witness growing fury at his government’s failure to deal with the devastating economic crisis. As the demonstrations escalated, the country’s political leaders called for Mr. Rajapaksa to step down.

There has been no direct confirmation of Mr. Putin’s possible resignation. A Rajapaksa who is in hiding and has remained defiant in the past. mr. Abeywardena, in a televised statement, said the president told him he would step down on July 13 “to ensure a peaceful transition of power.”

By evening, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who only took office in May and also faced demands to step down, said he will retire, stating that he meant “the safety of all citizens”. Protesters also broke into his private home late Saturday night and set it on fire, said Dinook Kolombaj, a spokesman for the prime minister. Wickremesinghe was not at home at the time.

Sri Lanka has run out of foreign exchange reserves to import essentials such as fuel and medicine, and the United Nations has warned that more than a quarter of Sri Lanka’s population is at risk of food shortages.

The economic crisis has been a serious blow to the country, which is still struggling with legacy of a bloody 30-year civil war. This conflict between the government and the rebels, who began to discriminate against minority Tamils, ended in 2009. But many of his main reasons remain, and the Rajapaksa family continues to serve the majority of Sinhalese Buddhists.

The country’s downward spiral has played out as high energy prices and food inflation have affected much of the world. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions that followed have sent energy prices skyrocketing as global food supply chains become increasingly depleted due to stress and demand.

Riots in Sri Lanka have already begun to reshape the geopolitical landscape a region where the island nation of 22 million has long been regarded as a strategic prize, and where China and India, longtime rivals, are vying for influence.

At least 42 people were injured Saturday in clashes with security forces in the city, health officials said after police fired tear gas and water cannons at protesters and fired into the air in an attempt to disperse them.

A Sri Lankan broadcaster reported that four of its journalists were attacked by security forces near Mr. Justin’s residence. Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister, on Saturday evening.

Local media showed footage of protesters tearing down parts of the presidential residence, as well as his secretariat, a separate building that houses his office.

Video on social media shows protesters jumping into the pool at the Rajapaksa Residence, relaxing in bedrooms and frying snacks in the presidential kitchen.

“I came here today to send the president home,” said Vasanta Kiruvattuduwa, 50, who walked 10 miles to join the protest. “Now the President must resign. If he wants peace to reign, he must resign.”

Speculation about the whereabouts of G. Rajapaksa continued to intensify until evening, but his whereabouts remained unclear. Defense and army officials did not immediately respond to questions about Mr. Location of Rajapaksa.

Karan Deep Singh made a report.