Sri Lankan protesters storm president’s home as thousands gather
Video shown on Sri Lankan television and social media showed protesters entering the president’s house – Rajapaksa’s office and residence in the commercial capital – after breaking through police-placed security cordons .
Footage shows protesters inside the building and banners hanging from the balcony, as well as swimming in the residence’s swimming pool.
Rajapaksa is not at the site and has been moved elsewhere, security officials told CNN. It is not known how many security personnel are present at the scene.
At least 31 people, including two police officers, were injured during the protests and are receiving treatment, according to the National Hospital of Sri Lanka (NHSL). Two of the injured are in critical condition, police said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has called an emergency meeting of party leaders to discuss the current situation and reach a resolution, his office said on Saturday. He also asked the Speaker of Parliament to summon MPs.
The South Asian nation of 22 million is suffering its worst financial crisis in recent history, leaving millions struggling to buy food, medicine and fuel.
A police curfew that had previously been imposed on several police divisions in Sri Lanka’s Western Province was lifted on Saturday. Several politicians and the Bar Association of Sri Lanka called the curfew “unlawful”, saying there had been no instances of violence to justify the imposition of the measure.
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent months, calling on the country’s leaders to step down over accusations of economic mismanagement.
In several major cities, including Colombo, hundreds of people are forced to queue for hours to buy fuel, sometimes clashing with police and military as they wait.
Footage from Colombo paints a chaotic scene, with images showing protesters fleeing tear gas and clashing with police in bulletproof vests.
Schools have been suspended and fuel has been limited to essential services. Patients cannot travel to hospitals due to fuel shortages and soaring food prices.
Train frequency has decreased, forcing travelers to squeeze into compartments and even sit precariously on them when commuting to work.
Wickremesinghe said the country has started talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to revive the country’s economy.
This week he told parliament that talks with the IMF were “difficult” because they entered the discussion as a “bankrupt” country, rather than a developing one.
CNN’s Irene Nasser contributed reporting.