Thousands of Sri Lankan university students raided Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s home on Sunday and demanded his resignation over the island’s worsening economic crisis.
Months of prolonged power cuts, record inflation and acute food and fuel shortages have led to mounting public discontent in Sri Lanka, which is facing the worst economic downturn since independence in 1948.
During Sunday’s protest, student leaders climbed the fence of Rajapaksa’s compound in Colombo after police erected barricades on several roads around the capital to prevent them from contacting protesters elsewhere.
“You can block the road, but you can’t stop our fight until the entire government has gone home,” said an unidentified student leader as he stood atop the walls.
Opposite rows of police with riot shields, protesters tried to tear down the barricades, preventing them from entering the residence.
Some carried signs that read “Go Home Gota” – the nickname for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Mahinda’s younger brother – while others wore the Guy Fawkes mask that has become synonymous with anti-establishment movements.
Police said Mahinda Rajapaksa, the head of the ruling clan in Sri Lanka, was not on site at the time and the crowds left peacefully.
For more than two weeks, thousands of protesters have camped every day outside the office on the coast of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, demanding that he and his brother resign.
Nationwide demonstrations have seen crowds storm the homes and offices of government figures.
A man was shot dead this week when police fired at a roadblock in central Rambukkana – the first fatality since protests last month.
Sri Lanka’s economic collapse began to be felt after the coronavirus pandemic torpedoed vital revenues from tourism and remittances.
The country is unable to finance essential imports, leaving rice, milk powder, sugar, wheat flour and medicines in short supply, while runaway inflation has exacerbated the hardship.
Utilities unable to afford fuel have resulted in long daily power cuts, with long lines winding past gas stations each morning as people queue for scarce supplies of gasoline and kerosene.
Treasury Secretary Ali Sabry, who is in Washington to negotiate an International Monetary Fund bailout, warned Friday that the economic situation in Sri Lanka is likely to deteriorate further.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)