Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Uditha Jayasinghe & Adam May

President says he will stand down after thousands of protesters storm his mansion

Sri Lanka's President will step down next week after a day of violent protests in which demonstrators stormed the his official residence and set fire to his home in Colombo.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa will leave office on Wednesday, speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced in a video statement this evening.

"The decision to step down on 13 July was taken to ensure a peaceful handover of power," Abeywardena said.

"I therefore request the public to respect the law and maintain peace."

The announcement came after a dramatic escalation in months of anti-government protests over the dire economic crisis in the country.

The news of the president's decision triggered an eruption of celebratory fireworks in parts of Colombo city.

Demonstrators protest inside the President's House amid the country's economic crisis (REUTERS)

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also said he is willing to resign to make way for an all-party government, his office said in a statement this evening.

Throughout the day, soldiers and police were unable to hold back a crowd of chanting protesters demanding Rajapaksa's resignation and blaming him for the country's worst economic crisis in seven decades, Reuters reports.

Neither Rajapaksa nor Wickremesinghe were in their residences when the buildings were attacked.

Video footage on local news channels showed a huge fire and smoke coming from Wickremesinghe's private home in an affluent Colombo neighbourhood.

A demonstrator throws a tear gas towards riot police (REUTERS)

His office said that protesters had started the fire and there were no immediate reports of injuries in the blaze.

Wickremesinghe had moved to a secure location, a government source told Reuters early in the day.

Inside the president's house earlier in the day, a Facebook livestream showed hundreds of protesters, some draped in the national flag, packing into rooms and corridors.

Video footage showed some of them splashing in the swimming pool, while others sat on a four-poster bed and sofas. Some could be seen emptying out a chest of drawers in images that were widely circulated on social media.

Protestors demanding the resignation of Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa gather near the compound of Sri Lanka's Presidential Palace in Colombo (AFP via Getty Images)

Hundreds milled about in the grounds of the colonial-era whitewashed residence, with few security personnel in sight.

Rajapaksa had left the official residence on Friday as a safety precaution ahead of the planned weekend demonstration, two defence ministry sources said.

Reuters could not immediately confirm his whereabouts.

At least 39 people, including two police officers, were injured and hospitalised during the protests, hospital sources said.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.