Sri Lanka: Protesters announce their departure from occupied buildings

Sri Lanka: Protesters announce departure from occupied buildings

UPGRADE DAY

Sri Lankan protesters, who forced President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country after his residence was invaded last weekend, announced on Thursday that they would evacuate public buildings that have been occupied since several days. 

“We are withdrawing peacefully from the presidential palace, the presidential secretariat and the offices of the prime minister with immediate effect, but we will continue our fight,” said a door- speech.

Hours before the withdrawal was announced, police repelled protesters trying to enter parliament.

The protesting crowd invaded the offices of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Wednesday after doing the same on Saturday with the palace of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, forcing him to flee abroad.

Nearly 85 people were injured in the clashes and one man died of suffocation from tear gas.

Mr. Wickremesinghe, appointed interim president by the fleeing head of state, had asked for the evacuation of public buildings and had ordered the police to do “what is necessary to restore order”.

A Buddhist dignitary supporting the movement had called on Thursday to return the presidential palace, a building over 200 years old, in order to preserve the valuables found there.

“This building is a national treasure and it must be protected,” monk Omalpe Sobitha told reporters. “There must be a proper audit and the property must be returned to the state.”

Hundreds of thousands of people have visited the residence since it opened to the public after Mr Rajapaksa fled on Saturday .

The curfew, lifted at dawn on Thursday, has been reinstated for midday, in Colombo only.

Mr. Rajapaksa had promised to step down on Wednesday but no announcement has been made.

He is currently in the Maldives where he is waiting for a private jet to take him, his wife and two bodyguards, to Singapore .