International Demand

Protesters in Sri Lanka enter the Prime Minister’s office and demand he resign

ANKARA

On Wednesday, protesters in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo stormed the prime minister’s office, demanding his resignation amid a crippling economic crisis, local media reported.

It came hours after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country, as protests sweep the South Asian country as the economic crisis escalated into political chaos.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was named interim president, in a televised public address ordered the military to “restore order” and called on protesters to cooperate with the authorities.

“We cannot tear up our Constitution. We cannot allow the fascists to take power. We must end this fascist threat to democracy,” Wickremesinghe said, according to the Tamil Guardian news site.

Sri Lanka’s embattled president fled the country on a military plane early Wednesday, according to multiple reports citing unnamed local officials.

Rajapaksa, his wife and a bodyguard landed in the Maldives, Tamil Guardian said, citing Sri Lankan officials.

Amid mass protests following a worsening economic crisis, Sri Lankan Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said on Saturday that the president would step down on July 13.

The development came after thousands of protesters stormed the presidential palace in Colombo and also set fire to the prime minister’s house.

Wickremesinghe also agreed on Saturday to step down after the formation of a multiparty government.

Protesters blamed the Rajapaksa political dynasty for the crisis. Mahinda Rajapaksa, a brother of the president, resigned as prime minister in May.

Crippled by a shortage of foreign exchange after its tourism-dependent economy collapsed, the island nation of 22 million people defaulted on all of its external debt.

He was unable to pay for fuel and other essentials, leading to anti-government protests. Lack of fuel to run power plants has in turn led to daily power outages. Schools have been closed and state employees have been asked to work from home.

The government is negotiating with the International Monetary Fund for a rescue plan.

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