Crisis in Sri Lanka: Angry protesters occupy the luxury homes of their leaders. What’s next?

But protesters say they will not leave the luxury houses until both leaders have vacated their roles. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is expected to step down on Wednesday, while Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe tweeted his resignation on Saturday but did not confirm his departure date.

The resignations mark a major victory for the protesters, but the future of the country’s 22 million people is uncertain as they struggle to buy basic goods, fuel and medicines.

Here’s the latest.

Over the weekend, tens of thousands of protesters gathered outside the president’s office and residence before breaching security cordons.

Striking images shared on social media show them singing protest songs and chanting slogans calling for Rajapaksa to resign. Other photos showed groups of protesters setting up barbecue areas for grilling and cooking food.

But the most dramatic footage showed protesters swimming in the president’s private pool.

Sri Lankan forces took Rajapaksa to a naval vessel minutes before protesters stormed his residence, a senior military source told CNN on Sunday.

The president descended from his bedroom on the top floor of the palace and exited the compound just before protesters breached the compound’s first barrier, the source added.

The naval vessel is currently at sea near Colombo in Sri Lanka’s territorial waters, sources said.

Later on Saturday, protesters targeted Wickremesinghe’s home and set fire to his private home in Fifth Lane, an affluent area of ​​the capital. Live video from CNN showed the building ablaze as crowds gathered at the scene and cheered.

According to security officials, the leaders were not at their homes when the buildings were breached and were taken to safe locations ahead of the attacks.

Protesters in Sri Lanka occupy the Prime Minister's residence.

At least 55 people were injured in the protests, according to local medics on Saturday, who said the number included an eastern Sri Lankan MP and three people with gunshot wounds. Videos circulated on social media suggesting soldiers were firing at protesters outside the president’s residence, but the army denied opening fire.

Protests in Sri Lanka have escalated since March as public anger erupted in the streets over soaring food costs, fuel shortages and power outages as the country struggled to repay its debt.

Police use water and tear gas to disperse protesters who have gathered on a street leading to the President's office on July 9.

What happens to the government?

Rajapaksa will officially step down on July 13, officials said after an emergency meeting called by Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.

Wickremesinghe tweeted that he was stepping down “to ensure the continuation of government including the safety of all citizens,” but gave no date.

Four other ministers also resigned over the weekend – the latest in an exodus of senior officials. On April 3rd, the The entire cabinet of the Sri Lankan government has been effectively dissolved due to mass resignations of senior ministers.

Some 26 cabinet ministers resigned this weekend, including the central bank governor as well as the president’s nephew, who has criticized an apparent social media blackout as something he “would never condone”.

Analysts and observers now say Parliament Speaker Abeywardena is likely to temporarily assume leadership of the country until the next president is elected by lawmakers to replace Rajapaksa and complete the remainder of his term, which is due to end in 2024.

The new president will be elected on July 20 after parliament resumes on July 16, Abeywardena said in a statement Monday.

Nominations for the top post will go before parliament from July 19, with Abeywardena saying a day later a new president will be voted on.

The timetable was agreed at a meeting between Sri Lanka’s party leaders in Colombo on Monday to ensure a new all-party unity government in accordance with the country’s constitution is installed as soon as possible.

After the protests over the weekend, the IMF said it was closely monitoring developments in the country.

“We hope to resolve the current situation that will allow for the resumption of our dialogue on an IMF-backed program while we plan to continue technical discussions with our colleagues at the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Sri Lanka,” said the heads of the IMF’s Missions Peter Breuer and Masahiro Nozaki in a joint statement on Sunday.

How is life in Sri Lanka now?

The country has suffered its worst financial crisis in seven decades after its foreign exchange reserves fell to record lows and dollars to pay for essential imports such as food, medicine and fuel ran out.

For the people of Sri Lankans, the crisis has turned their daily lives into an endless cycle of queuing for basic necessities, many of which are rationed.

Despite previous government efforts to defuse the crisis, including introducing a four-day work week, Wickremesinghe declared the country “bankrupt” last Tuesday.

Desperate residents continue to queue for food and medicine in several major cities, including the capital Colombo, and there are reports of clashes between civilians and police and military while waiting in line.

Earlier in July, Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said the country had less than a day’s fuel left.

Trains have reduced their frequency, forcing travelers to squeeze into compartments and even sit unsteadily on them when commuting to work.

Patients cannot travel to hospitals due to fuel shortages and food prices are rising. Rice, a staple in the South Asian nation, has disappeared from the shelves of many shops and supermarkets.

Public frustration and anger erupted on March 31 when protesters threw bricks and set fires outside the president’s private residence.

Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protests, after which a 36-hour curfew was imposed.

President Rajapaksa declared a nationwide public emergency on April 1, gave authorities the power to arrest people without warrants and blocked social media platforms.

Protests took place the next day, despite the curfew, prompting police to arrest hundreds of protesters.

Now protesters have forced both the country’s president and prime minister to resign.

What is the background of these protests?

The crisis has been years in the making, experts said, pointing to a series of government decisions that exacerbated external shocks.

Over the past decade, the Sri Lankan government has borrowed huge sums of money from foreign lenders to fund public services, said Murtaza Jafferjee, chairman of the Advocata Institute in Colombo.

This credit spree coincided with a series of hammer blows to the Sri Lankan economy, from natural disasters – such as heavy monsoons – to man-made disasters, including a government ban on chemical fertilizers that decimated farmers’ harvests.

Facing a massive deficit, Rajapaksa cut taxes in a doomed attempt to stimulate the economy.

But the move backfired, hitting government revenues instead. This prompted rating agencies to downgrade Sri Lanka to near-default levels, meaning the country lost access to foreign markets.

Sri Lanka then had to draw on its foreign exchange reserves to pay down the national debt, which reduced its reserves. This affected imports of fuel and other essential goods, causing prices to skyrocket.

To make matters worse, in March the government floated the Sri Lankan rupee – meaning its price was determined based on supply and demand in the currency markets.

However, the rupee’s plunge against the US dollar only made matters worse for ordinary Sri Lankans.

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