COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled his official residence on Saturday shortly before protesters, angered by an unprecedented economic crisis, stormed and overran the compound.
Huge crowds had surrounded the leader’s home to demand his resignation, blaming government mismanagement for the painful downturn.
As protesters surged at the gates of the President’s Palace, troops guarding the compound fired in the air to hold back the tide until Rajapaksa was safely removed.
“The president was escaped to safety,” the report added. “He is still the president, he is being protected by a military unit.”
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who would assume the presidency in the event of Rajapaksa s resignation, has called an urgent cabinet meeting to discuss a “swift resolution” to the political crisis, his office said.
Members of the crowd broadcast live footage on social media showing hundreds of people walking through the President’s Palace.
The colonial-era state mansion is one of Sri Lanka’s key symbols of state power and officials said Rajapaksa’s departure raised questions as to whether he intended to remain in office.