Sri Lanka PM resigns, Rajapaksa family home burnt down amid clashes

Sri Lanka PM resigns, Rajapaksa family home burnt down amid clashes
# 10 May 2022 00:00 (UTC +04:00)

Sri Lanka's prime minister resigned on Monday to make way for a unity government that would try to find a way out of the country's worst economic crisis in history, but protesters said they also wanted his brother to stand down as president, APA reports citing Reuters.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa's resignation came hours after clashes broke out in Colombo, where supporters of the ruling party stormed an anti-government protest camp and were beaten back by police using tear gas and water cannon.

Ruling party parliamentarian Amarakeerthi Athukorala died after a standoff with anti-government protesters in the town of Nittambuwa near Colombo, a police source told Reuters without giving details.

At least three others were wounded and the area remained tense with dozens of protesters still at the location, the source said.

A nationwide curfew has been imposed, on top of the state of emergency that Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa - the prime minister's younger brother, referred to as Gota - declared last week in the face of escalating protests.

The island nation of 22 million people has suffered prolonged power cuts and shortages of essentials, including fuel, cooking gas and medicines, and the government is left with as little as $50 million of useable foreign reserves.

Sri Lankans have been taking to the streets in largely peaceful protests and demanding that the Rajapaksas step down.

In his resignation letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, the prime minister said he was quitting to help form an interim, unity government.

"Multiple stakeholders have indicated the best solution to the present crisis is the formation of an interim all-party government," the letter said.

"Therefore, I have tendered my resignation so the next steps can be taken in accordance with the Constitution."

Nalaka Godahewa, a government spokesman, said all cabinet members had also stepped down.

"Now the president will invite other political parties to form a unity government," he told Reuters.

"The president will meet with independent and opposition political parties and we expect a new government in the next few days."

On the streets of Colombo, the mood was jubilant but tense as cars - some flying the national flag and others sounding their horns - drove along a seaside promenade where clashes had broken out earlier.

Outside the prime minister's residence, Osha De Silva was among the hundreds of protesters celebrating his resignation but said she also wanted the president to step down.

"The Rajapaksa regime is corrupt," Silva said, clasping a national flag with both hands.