Calm has returned to the streets of Sri Lanka’s commercial capital Colombo after protestors stormed the presidential palace and set fire to the prime minister’s residence, forcing the nation’s two main political leaders to resign.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators converged on the capital on Saturday, calling for President Gotabya Rajapaksa to resign after months of smaller protests over economic mismanagement.
Many of the protesters were draped in the Sri Lanka flag as they swarmed into the president’s colonial-era mansion, crowding into every room, rummaging through the president’s belongings, using the gym equipment and jumping into the swimming pool.
Elsewhere, demonstrators set fire to the private home of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Neither the president nor the prime minister were in their residences at the time, but both have agreed to resign amid public fury over the nation’s collapsing economy
The announcement triggered an eruption of celebratory fireworks.
Political parties met on Sunday under intense pressure to quickly form an interim government and ensure a peaceful transition of power.
Protestors are still occupying the presidential palace and prime minister’s home and plan to do so until the two leaders formally resign.
Some remain sceptical of the leaders’ intentions.
Sri Lanka’s military has appealed to the demonstrators to cooperate with security forces to maintain calm.
The nation of 22 million people is short of food and fuel after inflation hit a record 54.6% in June.
Its economic crisis erupted after the covid pandemic hammered the tourism-reliant economy and slashed remittances from overseas workers.
The tourism industry was already struggling after the 2019 Easter suicide bombings at churches and hotels killed more than 260 people.
The International Monetary Fund, which has been in talks with the Sri Lankan government for a possible $A4.4 billion bailout, is monitoring the situation closely.
“We hope for a resolution of the current situation that will allow for resumption of our dialogue on an IMF-supported program,” the global lender said in a statement.