Sri Lankan premier offers resignation amid political, economic chaos

Wickremesinghe requests president to form all-party government, his office says, after thousands of protesters storm president’s residence.

Sri Lankan premier offers resignation amid political, economic chaos

Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Saturday expressed his willingness to step down to pave the way for an all-party government in the South Asian country after months of political and economic turmoil.

Wickremesinghe has decided to step down and has requested the president to form an all-party government, according to a statement from his office.

Wickremesinghe will continue serving as the nation's premier up to that time, it added.

The premier claimed that he made this choice because the World Food Program director is scheduled to visit the country this week, the island-wide fuel distribution is scheduled to resume also this week, and the IMF's Debt Sustainability report is soon to be completed.

He accepted the suggestion of the opposition party leaders about his quit in order to guarantee the protection of the people, according to local news channel NewsFirst.

The announcement was made after thousands of protesters stormed the president’s residence in the capital Colombo on Saturday morning and demanded his immediate resignation in the wake of the country’s worst-ever economic crisis.

Holding Sri Lankan flags and helmets, some protesters broke through police barricades and entered President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s residence, leading law enforcement to fire in the air to disperse them, showed a video from NewsFirst.

Local media claimed that Rajapaksa left the residence and was taken to a safe place.

Police in Sri Lanka declared a curfew on Friday in Colombo, ahead of planned weekend protests.

TV footage shows some of the protestors bursting through the gates of the presidential secretariat on the seafront, which has been the site of a sit-in protest for months.

A statement by Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, which was earlier cited by NewsFirst, confirmed that the majority of party leaders have called on both the president and the prime minister to quit immediately.

A majority of people, according to him, believe that the speaker should serve as interim president for about a week before parliament names a president-in-waiting and an all-party coalition are established to run the nation.

Meanwhile, Maithripala Sirisena, former president and leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) said in a statement that both the president and the prime minister should step down in order to respect the people's verdict.

He argued that despite several requests to correct the faults done by the current government, which has been "oppressive to the people for many years,” the country ultimately ended up devolving into anarchy because the government failed to act on pertinent decisions in a timely manner.

The island nation of 22 million people has defaulted on all of its foreign debt due to a lack of foreign exchange.

Amid currency depreciation and high inflation, the country has been unable to pay for petrol and other necessities, resulting in anti-government protests. A lack of fuel for power stations has also resulted in constant power cuts. State employees have been asked to work from home while schools are closed.

The government is negotiating a bailout package with the IMF.

Hüseyin Demir

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