By Spy Uganda Correspondent
The speaker of Sri Lanka’s Parliament says President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has agreed to resign as of Wednesday next week.
Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said in a televised statement Saturday that he informed Rajapaksa of a decision taken at a meeting of Parliamentary party leaders requesting he leave office, and he agreed.
However Rajapaksa will remain as president until Wednesday to ensure a smooth transfer of power, Abeywardena added.
The announcement came hours after protesters stormed the president’s official residence to vent their anger over the country’s severe economic crisis. Protesters also broke into Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe residence and set it on fire.
The decision came after the biggest protest yet swept Sri Lanka as tens of thousands of people broke through barricades and entered President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s residence and nearby office to vent their anger against a leader they hold responsible for the nation’s worst crisis.
Footage showed people in a jubilant mood taking a dip in the garden pool of the residence. Some lay on beds, others made tea and drank, and made “statements” from the conference room that Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe must immediately quit.
Wickremesinghe said he suggested to the president to have an all-party government, but didn’t say anything about Rajapaksa’s whereabouts. Opposition parties in Parliament were currently discussing the formation of a new government.
Rajapaksa appointed Wickremesinghe as prime minister in May in the hope that the career politician would use his diplomacy and contacts to resuscitate a collapsed economy. But people’s patience wore thin as shortages of fuel, medicine and cooking gas only increased and oil reserves ran dry.
Many protesters accuse Wickremesinghe of trying to save Rajapaksa when he came under pressure to resign, as every other member of his powerful political dynasty had quit the Cabinet.
It was not clear if Rajapaksa was inside his residence when it was stormed earlier Saturday. A government spokesman, Mohan Samaranayake, said he had no information about his movements.Leaders of political parties in Parliament met later and decided to request Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe to step down, opposition lawmaker Rauff Hakeem said on Twitter. He said a consensus was reached that the parliamentary speaker should take over as temporary president and work on an interim government.
Sri Lanka’s economy is in a state of collapse, relying on aid from India and other countries as its leaders try to negotiate a bailout with the International Monetary Fund. The economic meltdown has led to severe shortages of essential items, leaving people struggling to buy food, fuel and other necessities.