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Tuesday February 07, 2023

Protesters break into Sri Lanka PM’s office

"I have ordered military commanders and the police chief to do what is necessary to restore order," says Ranil Wickremesinghe

By AFP
July 13, 2022
Demonstrators take part in an anti-government protest outside the office of Sri Lanka´s prime minister in Colombo on July 13, 2022. Photo: AFP
Demonstrators take part in an anti-government protest outside the office of Sri Lanka´s prime minister in Colombo on July 13, 2022. Photo: AFP

COLOMBO: Thousands of anti-government protesters stormed into Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office Wednesday, hours after he was named as acting president.

Men and women breached military defences and entered the premier’s office to raise national flags, witnesses told AFP.

Police and troops failed to hold back crowds despite firing tear gas and water cannon to prevent.

Wickremesinghe in a televised address said he had instructed security forces to restore order, but troops were seen backing down at his office leaving gates open for protesters to stroll in.

"I have ordered military commanders and the police chief to do what is necessary to restore order," Wickremesinghe said.

"Those who stormed into my office want to stop me from discharging my responsibilities as acting president."

His private home was set ablaze on Saturday after protesters captured the president’s office and home on Saturday.

"We can’t tear up our constitution. We can’t allow fascists to take over. We must end this fascist threat to democracy," he said adding that the state buildings occupied by protesters must be returned to state custody.

The protesters’ actions were a repeat of Saturday’s capture of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s home and office, which forced him to eventually flee the country earlier Wednesday.

Courtesy: Saudi Gazette/Twitter
Courtesy: Saudi Gazette/Twitter

Sri Lanka declares state of emergency 

Earlier in the day, crisis-hit Sri Lanka declared an indefinite nationwide state of emergency on Wednesday, hours after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country, confirmed the prime minister's office.

Twitter/ @VinodayaLk
Twitter/ @VinodayaLk

"Since the president is out of the country, an emergency has been declared to deal with the situation in the country," Dinouk Colombage, spokesman for Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, told AFP.

Police said they were also imposing an indefinite curfew across the Western Province, which includes the capital Colombo, to contain growing protests after Rajapaksa flew to the Maldives in a military aircraft.

Thousands of demonstrators had mobbed the premier's office, prompting police to fire tear gas to hold them back from overrunning the compound.

"There are ongoing protests outside the prime minister's office in Colombo and we need the curfew to contain the situation," a senior police officer told AFP.

He said they were under orders to crack down against demonstrators disrupting the functioning of the state.

Tens of thousands of men and women overran Rajapaksa´s official residence on Saturday, forcing him to escape to a military base and later flee the country.

Officials said he had promised to resign on Wednesday.