Sri Lankan PM resigns amid economic crisis
Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has resigned amid mass protests at the government’s handling of a deepening economic crisis.
The move came as the island was placed under curfew after violent clashes between Rajapaksa supporters and anti-government protesters in Colombo.
Three people were killed, including a ruling party MP, and more than 150 injured in violence in the capital.
There have been protests over soaring prices and power cuts since last month.
The island nation is facing its worst economic crisis since gaining independence from Britain in 1948.
Mr Rajapaksa, 76, sent his resignation letter to his younger brother President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, saying he hoped it would help resolve the crisis, but the move is highly unlikely to satisfy government opponents while the latter remains in power.
Earlier in the day police were deployed following violence outside the prime minister and president’s offices in Colombo.
Police fired tear gas and water cannon at hundreds of ruling party supporters after they breached police lines and attacked anti-government protesters using sticks and poles.
After pulling down tents of protesters outside the PM’s Temple Trees residence, they then stormed the nearby “Gota go home” camp on the promenade.
“We were hit, the media were hit, women and children were hit,” one witness told AFP news agency.
Just outside the capital, police said an MP from the governing party was killed after he opened fire on protesters blocking his car. Two others also died, officials said.
Later in the day several properties of ruling party MPs and local government officials were attacked and some set on fire, reports said.
Since demonstrations erupted in early April, protesters have been camped noisily but peacefully outside President Rajapaksa’s office at Galle Face Green, demanding he quit.
People are furious because the cost of living has become unaffordable.
Sri Lanka’s foreign currency reserves have virtually run dry, and it can no longer afford essential items including food, medicines and fuel.
The government has requested emergency financial help. It blames the Covid pandemic, which all but killed off Sri Lanka’s tourist trade – one of its biggest foreign currency earners.
But many experts say economic mismanagement is to blame.
The prime minister’s letter said his resignation was intended to clear the way for an “all-party government to guide the country out of the current economic crisis”, AFP reports.
Opposition parties have so far refused to do so and have also called on the president to quit.