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State of emergency in Sri Lanka as protests engulf Colombo

Sri Lankan protestors overran the offices of the prime minister in Colombo on Wedneday, and demanded the resignation of acting President, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has taken office after Sri Lanka's President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, fled the country.

As violence flared Sri Lankan party leaders also called for the resignation of Wickremesinghe, with Tamil National Alliance MP MA Sumanthiran stating the decision was unanimous.

The meeting follows the announcement of a state of emergency and a televised address in which Wickremesinghe called on the military to "do whatever is neccessary to restore order".

He called on the protesters who have occupied his office and other state buildings to leave them and co-operate with authorities. "We can't tear up our constitution. We can't allow fascists to take over. We must end this fascist threat to democracy," he added.

Read more: Ranil Wickremesinghe accuses protestors of fascism and calls for military to 'whatever is necessary'

Photograph: Economy Next

Protests grew this morning after a night of tension, as news broke that besieged president Gotabaya Rajapaksa landed in the Maldives on a military flight in the early hours of the morning, as he fled the island on his second confirmed attempt in as many days.

The 73-year-old former defence secretary was reportedly trying to flee the country before he steps down and loses immunity as a head of state that protects him from prosecution for a range of crimes. He reportedly fears being arrested and placed on trial where he could face prosecution for his financial crimes, as well as his genocide of Tamils.

An earlier attempt to leave through Colombo's international airport was foiled as airport staff refused to serve the president and his brother, forcing him back to a Sri Lankan military base.

Read more: 


Gotabaya Rajapaksa lands in Maldives on Sri Lankan military flight

Stuck in Sri Lanka - Drama at Colombo airport as Rajapaksa attempts to flee

As news of Rajapaksa's departure broke, locals feared that Ranil Wickremesinghe would look to take over his position and began gathering outside his office. Amidst a heavy security presence, thousands gathered at the gates demanding Wickremesinghe also step down. 

After being tear-gassed by Sri Lankan police for hours and reports that shots were fired into the air, protesters stormed the prime minister's official residence. Protesters are now occupying the residence, reportedly chanting “Ranil lunatic, Gota lunatic” while banging drums. 


Photograph courtesy of Kavinthan

Photograph courtesy of Kavinthan

As protests took place, the heads of the armed forces ominously made a statement broadcast on national television, calling for an all party leaders meeting. Shavendra Silva, Sri Lanka’s war crimes accused Chief of Defence Staff who is currently barred from entry to the US, sat alongside the heads of Air Force, Army, Navy and Police in an almost unprecedented press conference.

Read more: Sri Lanka Chief of Defence Staff calls party leader meeting in unprecedented move

Meanwhile former army chief Sarath Fonseka, who has been increasingly given a platform by Sri Lanka's protestors issued a call to the military, asking them not to follow orders from acting president Ranil Wickremesinghe and instead "raise your weapons against corrupt politicians".

Read more: 'Use weapons against corrupt politicians' – Fonseka appeals to Sri Lankan army not to follow orders

Speaker of House Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena made the announcement of Wickremesinghe's appointment to the highest office in the land, explaining that given Rajapaksa has fled, Wickremesinghe will act as a temporary president, as per parliamentary rules.

Wickremesinghe was appointed to the prime minister by Rajapaksa in a desperate bid to stave off pressure from protestors. But the move was deeply unpopular.

On Saturday, anti-government protestors set fire to Wickremasinghe's private residence in Cambridge Terrace.

Read more:

PM Ranil Wickremesinghe's house set on fire by protestors

The return of Ranil Wickremesinghe - Sri Lanka appoints a new prime minister

Photograph: Economy Next

Meanwhile, protestors briefly took over the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, the national television network of the island, after they stormed its offices just moments ago. The network has now gone off air.

Read more: BREAKING – Protestors take over Sri Lanka’s national television broadcaster

Over the weekend, tens of thousands of protesters stormed Rajapaksa's official residence demanding his resignation. Amidst the chaos, Rajapaksa pledged to resign on Wednesday 13th July but has yet to officially resign. 

Read more: Carnage in Colombo – Protestors raid President’s home and set Prime Minister’s residence ablaze

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