A visual guide to protests sweeping Sri Lanka 

A visual guide to protests sweeping Sri Lanka 
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Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his entire cabinet are set to resign this week, with outrage over the country’s economic crisis boiling over and protesters at their doorstep — literally.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of protesters seized Sri Lanka’s capital buildings, including the official residence of Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, marking the largest day of protests which have been escalating for months. Photos and video of hundreds of demonstrators taking smiling selfies, frolicking in a swimming pool and singing, dancing and waving the national flag opulent rooms just underlined the magnitude of the changes afoot in the South Asian island nation.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s office on Monday stated that Rajapaksa had confirmed his decision to step down this week. However, there have been no direct public statements made by Rajapaksa.

Soaring inflation and government debt have left the nation of of 22 million with dire shortages of food, medicine and fuel, with citizens taking to the streets to demand accountability. Many blame Rajapaksa and his family, which has dominated Sri Lankan politics for years, for mismanaging the nation’s finances and contributing to the crisis.

Thousands descended on Rajapaksa’s official residence in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s commercial capital, on Saturday, demanding his resignation and chanting slogans.

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Sri Lankan TV broadcasts and footage posted on social media showed protesters successfully storming the building after breaking through security cordons, with soldiers and police officers failing to hold back the crowd.

Image:
On Saturday, crowds of men sang and danced after storming the palace, waving national flags.Eranga Jayawardena / AP

Reuters reported that Rajapaksa was not on the premises, having evacuated on Friday as a safety precaution ahead of the planned protests, according to two defense ministry sources.

Home to the Rajapaksa family’s political dynasty for most of the last two decades, the colonial-era presidential palace quickly fell to citizens.

Soon after gaining control of the residence, protesters were photographed dancing and celebrating, with many sporting the Sri Lankan flag.

The next target was the nearby private residence of prime minister Wickremesinghe, who had only been in the position since President Rajapaksa’s brother resigned from it in May. The estate was set ablaze by protestors after a clash with police.

That day, the parliament speaker’s office first announced that Rajapaksa would resign in a video statement. Wickremesinghe’s office also indicated his willingness to resign.

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