STORY: After a weekend of turmoil in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo – the prime minister's office on Monday (July 11) confirmed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the entire cabinet will resign, and make way for a unity government.
Speaking for the first time since anti-government protesters stormed the President and Prime Minister’s official residences - Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also said he would step down:
"They came and burnt my house. Not only that they have taken over the President’s house, the President's office and Temple Trees - the Prime minister's official residence. They have misplaced all the documents. A government must work in accordance with the law. Also, we must work according to the constitution. We are not going to work outside of the constitution. You cannot pressure parliament from outside to do things - I am here to protect the constitution, to listen to people's views while protecting the constitution. What we need today is an all-party government and I will work towards achieving it."
Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa said the government and its leaders no longer had the people's mandate and said he was ready to form a new government.
Sri Lanka’s financial crisis is deepening and the protestors have said they won't leave until both men officially quit.
Many are worried as there has been no direct word from Rajapaksa on his plans. Lahiru Weerasekera – a national organizer for youth change - was one of them:
"If they don't leave on the 13th, what will happen is that the people will decide to storm wherever they are hiding now. Recently, the parliament has not been making the decisions that they should be making. At the party leaders meeting, they have decided that the president and the prime minister should resign. What we are asking is, what was the reason they couldn’t make that decision earlier? If the people's representatives are on the side of the people, why couldn't they do it earlier?"
The the ongoing political instability could hurt the country’s negotiations with the IMF for a bailout package – the central bank governor told Reuters in an interview.
The sweeping protests coupled with the pandemic have hammered the tourism-reliant economy.
The country has been hit by soaring inflation, currency depreciation, rolling power cuts and terrible fuel shortages.
However - Colombo felt calmer on Monday as people strolled into the president's residence and toured the colonial-era buildings. The police made no attempt to stop anyone.
The crisis-hit nation barely has any dollars left to import fuel - which has been rationed to essential journeys for buses and trains.
Meanwhile, long lines continue outside petrol stations.