South Asia

Sri Lankan PM Mahinda Rajapaksa Resigns Amidst Fierce Protests

At least 78 people were injured in violent clashes, prompting Sri Lankan authorities to impose a nationwide curfew and deploy army troops in the capital.

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New Delhi: Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned on Monday, May 9, hours after his supporters attacked anti-government protesters outside embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office, leaving at least 78 people injured and prompting authorities to impose a nationwide curfew and deploy army troops in the capital.

At least two Cabinet ministers have also announced their resignations.

Prime Minister Mahinda, 76, sent his resignation letter to President Gotabaya, his brother.

The violence occurred as pressure mounted on the embattled government led by his younger brother and President Gotabaya to form an interim administration to overcome the worst economic crisis facing the country.

The curfew was imposed islandwide with immediate effect until further notice, a police spokesperson was quoted as saying by the local media.

During the clashes, Rajapaksa loyalists armed with sticks and clubs attacked unarmed protesters who have been camping outside President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office since April 9, AFP reported. Police fired tear gas and water cannon on the government supporters who breached police lines to smash tents and other structures set up by anti-government protesters, the report added.

Watch | ‘If Rajapaksas Don’t Go, There Could Be Violence in Sri Lanka,’ Says P. Saravanamuttu

Meanwhile, a legislator, Amarakeerthi Athukorala, from Sri Lanka’s ruling party was found dead outside the capital Colombo, news agency AFP quoted police as saying. He had allegedly opened fire and critically wounded two people blocking his car in Nittambuwa, reports say.

“While emotions are running high in #lka, I urge our general public to exercise restraint & remember that violence only begets violence. The economic crisis we’re in needs an economic solution which this administration is committed to resolving,” Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa wrote on Twitter in the afternoon.

Earlier, Rajapaksa told his thousands of supporters gathered outside his house that nothing would deter him.

“I am so used to seeing protests and agitations, nothing would deter me. I am experienced enough to face any situation,” Rajapaksa said.

Also read: Knee-Deep in Debt, Food Shortages, Depleting Foreign Reserves: How Did Sri Lanka Get Here?

In a special Cabinet meeting on May 6, Friday, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency with effect from Friday midnight. This is the second time that an emergency was declared in Sri Lanka in just over a month as the island nation was in the grip of the worst economic crisis.

Sri Lanka is currently in the throes of unprecedented economic turmoil since its independence from Britain in 1948.

The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.

Thousands of demonstrators have hit the streets across Sri Lanka since April 9, as the government ran out of money for vital imports; prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed and there are acute shortages in fuel, medicines and electricity supply.

(With inputs from PTI)

This is a developing story and is being updated as more information comes in.