Thousands of protesters in Sri Lanka storm president’s official residence

Thousands of protesters in Sri Lanka storm president's official residence 2
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Thousands of protesters in Sri Lanka storm president’s official residence after breaking through police barricades during anti-government march as country battles economic crisis

  • Thousands of protestors in Sri Lanka have stormed the presidential palace 
  • There has been public anger directed at President Gotabaya Rajapaksa
  • Police fired tear gas and bullets into the air but angry crowd surged past them 
  • The country is experiencing an acute shortage of fuel, food and medicine 
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Sri Lanka is rocked by crisis as thousands of protestors storm the president’s house in the capital of Colombo over public anger at the government’s handling of an economic crisis. 

A planned rally, one of the largest anti-government marches in the crisis-hit country this year, turned violent as thousands of demonstrators surged into the presidential compound of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Some protesters, holding Sri Lankan flags and helmets, broke into the president’s residence, video footage from local TV news NewsFirst channel showed.  

Two defence ministry sources said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was removed from the official premises on Friday for his safety ahead of the planned rally over the weekend.

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The island of 22 million people is struggling under a severe foreign exchange shortage that has limited essential imports of fuel, food and medicine, plunging it into the worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.

Many blame the country’s decline on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Largely peaceful protests since March have demanded his resignation.

Thousands of people swarmed into Colombo’s government district, shouting slogans against the president and dismantling several police barricades to reach Rajapaksa’s house, a Reuters witness said.

Police fired shots in the air but were unable to stop the angry crowd from surrounding the presidential residence, the witness said. 

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Angry protestors gather inside the compound of Sri Lanka's Presidential Palace in Colombo

Angry protestors gather inside the compound of Sri Lanka’s Presidential Palace in Colombo

Protestors stormed the palace and paraded through the corridors chanting against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and even took a dip in his pool

Protestors stormed the palace and paraded through the corridors chanting against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and even took a dip in his pool 

Police use water canon and tear gas to disperse the protesters in Colombo, Sri Lanka today

Police use water canon and tear gas to disperse the protesters in Colombo, Sri Lanka today

Protesters try to disperse and flee as a tear gas shell fired by police lands next to them

Protesters try to disperse and flee as a tear gas shell fired by police lands next to them

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Protestors react to a tear gas cannister, with one donning a gas mask and another readying a blanket to smother it with

Protestors react to a tear gas cannister, with one donning a gas mask and another readying a blanket to smother it with

A demonstrator throws back a tear gas grenade towards police members as police use tear gas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators

A demonstrator throws back a tear gas grenade towards police members as police use tear gas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators

Police and security troops react to a tear gas cannister that has landed near them

Police and security troops react to a tear gas cannister that has landed near them

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, has summoned an emergency meeting of political party leaders today in response.

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Despite a severe shortage of fuel that has stalled transportation services, demonstrators packed into buses, trains and trucks from several parts of the country to reach Colombo to protest the government’s failure to protect them from economic ruin.

Discontent has worsened in recent weeks as the cash-strapped country stopped receiving fuel shipments, forcing school closures and rationing of petrol and diesel for essential services. 

Sampath Perera, a 37-year-old fisherman took an overcrowded bus from the seaside town of Negombo 45 km (30 miles) north of Colombo, to join the protest.

‘We have told Gota over and over again to go home but he is still clinging onto power. We will not stop until he listens to us,’ Perera said.

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He is among the millions squeezed by chronic fuel shortages and inflation that hit 54.6% in June.

Political instability could undermine Sri Lanka’s talks with the International Monetary Fund seeking a $3 billion bailout, a restructuring of some foreign debt and fund-raising from multilateral and bilateral sources to ease the dollar drought.

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