Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is willing to resign to make way for an all-party government, his office said in a statement on Saturday. The statement followed intensifying anti-government protests that saw President Gotabaya Rajapaksa evacuated before protesters stormed his residence on Saturday.
Earlier in the day, thousands of protesters in Colombo broke through police barricades and stormed the President's official residence in one of the largest anti-government marches in the crisis-hit country this year.
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.
A Facebook livestream from inside the President's house showed hundreds of protesters, some draped in flags, packing into rooms and corridors, shouting slogans against Rajapaksa.Hundreds also milled about on the grounds outside the colonial-era white-washed building. No security officials were visible
At least 21 people, including two police, were injured and hospitalised in the ongoing protests, hospital sources told Reuters.
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.
Reuters could not immediately confirm the President's whereabouts.