Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned today amid clashes between his supporters and anti-government protesters. In the civil war-like situation in the island country, a ruling party MP died and many were injured. Mahinda Rajapaksa, 76, had sent his letter of resignation to his younger brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, clearing the way for a “new unity government”. At least two cabinet ministers have also stepped down.
“I am resigning with immediate effect so that you will be able to appoint an all-party government to guide the country out of the current economic crisis,” the prime minister said in the letter, reported news agency AFP. The cabinet now stands dissolved. The largest opposition party has refused to join any government headed by a member of the Rajapaksa clan.
Sri Lanka has been placed under curfew as riots broke out this morning in different cities of the island since the economic crisis hit the country when supporters of the Rajapaksa family went on a rampage. The loyalists of the regime attacked unarmed protesters who had, since 9 April, been camping outside the president’s office in downtown Colombo.
The protesters are now hitting back, setting buses on fire, destroying the memorial built for the parents of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa and setting ablaze their family home in Hambantota, around 250 km from Colombo. The houses of three former ministers and two MPs have been torched.
MP Amarakeerthi Athukorala opened fire and critically wounded two people blocking his car in Nittambuwa. But he was later found dead after trying to take refuge in a nearby building, officers said.
The police fired tear gas shells and water cannons while declaring an immediate curfew in Colombo, which was later widened to cover the country of 22 million people. At least 100 injured people have been hospitalised.
President Rajapaksa said the curfew would be in place till 7 AM tomorrow.
For the first time, the Sri Lankan riot squad was called in to reinforce the police. Earlier, soldiers were pressed into service to protect deliveries of fuel and other essentials but never to prevent clashes.
Exploited and left high and dry by China, the Sri Lankan people have suffered months of blackouts and dire shortages of food, fuel and medicines in its worst economic crisis since independence, sparking weeks of overwhelmingly peaceful anti-government demonstrations.