Thousands of protesters continued to occupy the President’s House, the Presidential Secretariat and Temple Trees last night after breaking into them earlier in the day as they demanded the immediate resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Protesters also converged on Parliament and Premier Wickremesinghe’s private residence located at 5th Lane off Thurstan Road in Colombo 3.
Police fired water cannon and teargas last evening to disperse those gathered near the Premier’s private residence. Protesters demanding the immediate resignation of President Rajapaksa first broke into the President’s House in Fort after breaking through multiple security barricades. They later breached the security parameters of the Presidential Secretariat, outside which they had been protesting since April.
Police fired numerous rounds of teargas and used several water cannon trucks to hold back the protesters from marching up Chatham Street and breaking down barricades to reach the President’s House. Police and security forces personnel, though, were ultimately overwhelmed by the sheer weight of numbers from the protesters’ ranks.
Several MPs from the opposition, including Samagi Jana Balawegaya’s (SJB) Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and Harsha De Silva joined yesterday’s protest. SJB MPs Rajitha Senaratne, however, was attacked by protesters when he attempted to join the protest and had to flee from the scene. SJB MP Vadivel Suresh, meanwhile, also suffered injuries in a fall after being manhandled by some protesters.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was not at the President’s House at the time it was breached and his whereabouts were unknown as of last evening.
A group of 16 Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MPs wrote to President Rajapaksa yesterday, asking him to immediately step down and pave the way for a mature leader representing Parliament who can win a parliamentary majority and who is not facing allegations of corruption. The group includes former ministers Dullas Alahapperuma, Channa Jayasumana and Nalaka Godahewa.
Earlier, tens of thousands of protesters descended on Colombo after overcoming severe transport difficulties. Bus and transport services, which had already been affected by the prevailing fuel crisis, were further curtailed initially after a police curfew was imposed in seven police divisions of the Western Province. The curfew, widely condemned by lawyers and opposition parties as being illegal and a violation of fundamental rights, was lifted at 8am yesterday.
With buses being in short supply, protesters used any vehicles at their disposal to get to Colombo for the “Go Home Gota” protest announced for yesterday. There were angry scenes at several train stations, including Kandy and Galle, when crowds attempting to make their way to Colombo found there were no trains. Eventually, however, a train left from Kandy carrying protesters while a train from Matara picked up those in Galle.
Protesters in Galle also took over the ramparts of the Galle Fort, from where spectators had been kept away by police and security forces personnel during the ongoing test series between Sri Lanka and Australia.
Those who could not make it to Colombo took to the streets in other parts of the country, where protests, both large and small, were held