SRI Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa has fled the country on a military jet after protesters stormed his palace.
Thousands of men, women and children poured into President Rajapaksa’s lavish mansion on Saturday July 9 as months of frustration brought on by an unprecedented economic crisis boiled over.
Mr Rajapaksa, who had been in hiding since protesters stormed his residence, left aboard a military plane, but it is still unclear where he is headed.
His brother Basil Rajapaksa, who is a former Finance Minister, has also fled the island, a BBC has reported.
Rajapaksa’s younger brother is reportedly heading to the US, despite having been prevented from leading Sri Lanka 24 hours earlier.
This comes days after demonstrators also set fire to the home of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Colombo, prompting both men to dramatically resign.
Protesters had been calling for Rajapaksa – part of a powerful clan which has dominated politics for decades – to quit for months.
Dramatic footage showed swarms of protesters inside and outside his home, chanting and carrying national flags with hundreds dipping in the garden pool for a swim.
People were seen having pillow fights in the bedrooms of the ransacked palace and enjoying a sing-along on the grand piano – with some even making time for a quick workout in the swanky gym.
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No “Gordon Garden” park of the palace, families enjoyed a picnic lunch as Buddhist monks in saffron robes marvelled at the marble floors and air conditioning.
Monk Sri Sumeda said: “When leaders live in such luxury, they have no idea how the commoners manage.
“This shows what can be done when people decide to exercise their power.”
Outside, the building barricades were overturned and a black flag was hoisted on a pole.
Mais lido no The Sun
Security staff tried to stop demonstrators but they were overwhelmed when the hoard pushed through fences, ran across the lawns and entered the building.
Pelo menos 34 people including two police officers were wounded in scuffles.
At the President’s seaside office in a nearby building, protesters also broke down the iron fences and took over the main lobby where they opened a makeshift library on Sunday.
Rajapaksa fled the presidential palace on Saturday using a back entrance under military cover just minutes before tens of thousands of protesters stormed the mansion.
The leader hasn’t commented directly but he plans to step down on July 13, the country’s parliamentary speaker said.
Heavily armed presidential guards are still at the palace – but they are mingling with the new visitors and even posing for selfies with those now controlling the new corridors of power.
Last month the country’s PM announced that Sri Lanka’s economy had collapsed and it is bankrupt.
Sri Lanka’s crisis has been attributed to a number of reasons including the Covid pandemic, huge tax cuts and massive debts.
The country is battling the worst financial crisis in a generation as its leaders try to negotiate a bailout with the International Monetary Fund.
The economic meltdown has led to severe shortages of essential items, leaving people struggling to buy goods including food and fuel.
And inflation has hit a record high of 54 per cent while the price of food shot up an eye-watering 80 por cento, de acordo com Al Jazeera.
Em abril, Sri Lanka announced it is suspending repaying foreign loans due to a foreign currency shortage.
Its total foreign debt amounts to $51 bilhão, $28 billion of which it must repay by the end of 2027.
The political turmoil has led to months of protests with people calling for the President to resign.
US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung asked people to protest peacefully and called for the military and police to grant peaceful protesters the space and security to do so.
“Chaos & force will not fix the economy or bring the political stability that Sri Lankans need right now,” Chung said in a tweet.
The unrest in Sri Lanka has led the UK government to put the country back on the travel ban list.
Eu obviamente pensei sobre isso, mas eu tinha um trabalho a fazer.”
TUI has cancelled flights to Sri Lankan airports.
The Foreign Office said in a statement: “The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advises against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka, due to the impact of the current economic crisis.”