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Sri Lanka’s PM Resigns After Weeks of Protests Over Economic Crisis

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Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Sri Lankan prime minister, has resigned after months of protests over the country’s deepening economic crisis, during which once-peaceful demonstrations turned violent and five individuals were killed.

Pro-government supporters attacked demonstrators at a protest site in Colombo on Monday, after which police used teargas and water cannon to repel them.

As a result of retaliation across the country, peaceful protestors, who had been mostly peaceful, began demonstrating. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s residence and the homes and vehicles of several pro-Rajapaksa politicians were set ablaze. Five people were killed and almost 200 were injured as a result of the nationwide curfew.

A politician from the ruling party allegedly opened fire on anti-government demonstrators just outside of Colombo, killing a 27-year-old and taking his own life later on. Two people were killed and five others injured in the southern town of Weeraketiya, according to police reports.

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As part of an effort to appease demonstrators who have been taking to the streets in thousands since March, Mahinda Rajapaksa was requested to resign by his brother, the president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, at a special meeting on Friday.

There has been a growing outcry for both members of Sri Lanka’s powerful Rajapaksa political dynasty to be removed from office due to their mismanagement of the economy and plunge of the country into the worst financial crisis in its history.

Former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, who served as president from 2005 to 2015, reportedly had been reluctant to step down, but on Monday submitted his resignation letter to the president.

The formation of an interim all-party government has been suggested by various stakeholders as the best solution to the current crisis. “Therefore, I have tendered my resignation in order that the next steps may be taken in accordance with the Constitution,” he wrote.

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As part of an effort to regain control over the streets, the president declared a state of emergency in the country over the weekend, the second in recent weeks.

At a clash between protesters and supporters of the government in Colombo, police officers carry an injured man. Photograph: Ishara S Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images
At a clash between protesters and supporters of the government in Colombo, police officers carry an injured man. Photograph: Ishara S Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images

Hundreds of pro-government demonstrators met Monday near Mahinda Rajapaksa’s residence in Colombo to urge him not to resign. The demonstration marked a violent shift in demonstrations. Several members of the group, some carrying sticks and wooden bars, then attacked an anti-government protest camp nearby, as police looked on as clashes broke out.

Around 180 people were injured by teargas and water cannons, and police deployed teargas and water cannons. There was a curfew in place on the site and troops were deployed to the site.

Several lawmakers‘ homes and cars were also set ablaze in Kurunegala, including that of Mahinda Rajapaksa. The incident was a catalyst for violence that spread throughout the city and country.

According to the US ambassador to Sri Lanka, “the violence against peaceful protesters today must be strongly condemned, and anyone inciting violence must be arrested and prosecuted”.

It is a near-bankrupt country, with an economic situation that remains dire. With billions in foreign loans already defaulted, the country has already reached out to the International Monetary Fund for financial assistance and an emergency loan.

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