After ‘Taking the Bastille’, plunge into the unknown

After another night of calm residents occupied the presidential palace, despite rumors of an army intervention, Sri Lankans were still holding their breath on Monday 11 July. Their country, where it makes life impossible, headed into the unknown on Saturday when protesters stormed symbols of power in Colombo. However, while President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, now on the run, in the aftermath announced that he would be stepping down after four days, and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinga offered to do the same, neither man has officially resigned yet.

Mr Rajapaksa has taken refuge in an unknown location, after being forced to flee his residence in Colombo, the capital, which was overrun by crowds on Saturday. Since then, Sri Lanka’s strongman has not spoken and announced his intent to leave power through the voice of Parliament Speaker, Mahinda Yaba Abiwardena, and then from the Prime Minister’s office on Monday.

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After more than three months of protest, the news of these resignations carried the scent of victory, although doubts remain. “I am very proud of what the people of Sri Lanka have achieved, we are bringing down the government, but it is not time to celebrate yet”, warns Hiranya Koray, a thirty-year-old from Colombo, reached by phone. Due to the lack of fuel on the island, she walked 10 kilometers to participate in the protest in the capital on Saturday.

Sri Lanka is going through an unprecedented economic and financial crisis, which is blamed on the Rajapaksa clan, which has dominated political life for nearly two decades. Pushed to the limit by months of deprivation, tens of thousands of Sri Lankans on Saturday flocked to Colombo for a day of crucial mobilization. They arrived by bus, train, bike or even on foot, intent on going to the capital to demand, as they had done since the end of March, for the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

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In the middle of the day, protesters stormed police barriers and stormed the palace, then the president’s office and the prime minister’s official residence. The head of state was forced to flee and was placed in a safe place under the protection of the army. His brother Mahinda Rajapaksa suffered the same fate in May after his resignation as prime minister. When he was elected in November 2019, Gotabaya Rajapaksa seized power, installing his clan in control of the country. He is the only one still in office.

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