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Sri Lanka’s PM, cabinet step down following protests

The worst economic crisis Sri Lanka has suffered since it gained independence brought the mood in the country to boiling point. As a result of the protests, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned on Monday, May 9, but the angry crowds also demanded the resignation of his brother, the president.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned hours after clashes that broke out in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s co-capital and the island nation’s largest city and commercial hub, on May 9. Supporters of the ruling party of PM Rajapaksa stormed an anti-government protest camp, but were beaten back by police using tear gas and water cannons. The attack resulted in a tent village, that was set up by the opposition, being set on fire. At least nine people were taken to Colombo’s National Hospital for treatment relating to injuries or tear gas inhalation. The army has announced that they have also deployed soldiers in the area to support riot police.

Sri Lanka’s President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is also the younger brother of Mahinda Rajapaksa, has imposed a nationwide curfew. Last week a state of emergency had already been declared. Following the clashes, he appealed for restraint.

Strongly condemn the violent acts taking place by those inciting & participating,irrespective of political allegiances. Violence won’t solve the current problems.
I request all citizens to remain calm & exercise restraint. I urge everyone to work together in solving this crisis

— Gotabaya Rajapaksa (@GotabayaR) May 9, 2022

The country has been struggling with an economic crisis and the population of the island nation had to endure power cuts as well as shortages of basic necessities. Having lost patience, in late March the people took to the streets to protest, mostly peacefully, demanding the resignation of the PM and the president.

“Multiple stakeholders have indicated the best solution to the present crisis is the formation of an interim all-party government,” wrote Sri Lanka’s PM in a letter of resignation. “Therefore, I have tendered my resignation so the next steps can be taken in accordance with the Constitution.” The government’s spokesperson, Nalaka Godahewa, said that all the members of Rajapaksa’s cabinet had also stepped down.

“Now the president will invite other political parties to form a unity government,” Godahewa said, and that following the President’s meeting with representatives of other party’s a new government should be formed within days.

Crowds of anti-government protesters erupted in joy upon hearing the news of the Prime Minister Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation, but continued to demand that his brother, the President, step down as well.

The government has requested the International Monetary Fund for a bailout, as the country only has about EUR 47 million in foreign currency reserves.

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