Sri Lanka President Resigns, Protesters Abandon Seized Buildings With Country In Limbo

by | Jul 14, 2022 | Politics

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lankan protesters retreated from government buildings they seized and military troops reinforced security at the Parliament on Thursday, establishing a tenuous calm in a country in both economic meltdown and political limbo.Embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled a day earlier under pressure from demonstrators furious over the island nation’s economic collapse. He finally emailed his resignation Thursday, a day later than promised, according to an official — but the crisis was far from over since he has further angered the crowds by making his prime minister acting leader.AdvertisementProtesters want both men out and a unity government in to address an economic calamity that has triggered widespread shortages of food, fuel and other necessities. But with a fractured opposition and confusion over who was in charge, a solution seemed no closer following Rajapaksa’s departure.The slow and haphazard way it unfolded only added to turmoil. On Thursday, Indunil Yapa, an aide to Sri Lanka’s Parliament speaker, said Rajapaksa had emailed his resignation — but that it needed to be checked and an official announcement wouldn’t come until Friday.The protesters accuse Rajapaksa and his powerful political family of siphoning money from government coffers for years and his administration of hastening the country’s collapse by mismanaging the economy. The family has denied the corruption allegations, but Rajapaksa acknowledged some of his policies contributed to the meltdown.Months of protests reached a frenzied peak over the weekend when demonstrators stormed the president’s home and office and the official residence of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. On Wednesday, they seized Wickremesinghe’s office.AdvertisementImages of protesters inside the buildings — lounging on elegant sofas and beds, posing at officials’ desks and touring the opulent settings — have captured the world’s attention.They initially vowed to hold these places until a new government was in place, but the movement shifted tactics Thursday, apparently concerned that any escalation in violence could undermine their message following clashes the previous night outside the Parliament that left dozens injured.“The fear was that there could be a crack in the trust they held for the struggle,” said Nuzly, a protest leader who goes by only one name. “We’ve shown what power of the people can do, but it doesn’t mean we have to occupy these places.”Devinda Kodagode, another protest leader, told The Associated Press they planned to vacate official buildings after Parliament speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said he was exploring legal options for the country in the wake of …

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