Sri Lanka protest: Picnic, piano, pool at vacant president’s home. Watch

  • Thousands of men, women and children were seen pouring into the imposing state mansion queuing to sit on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's chair on the upper floor while children and parents banged on a grand piano downstairs

Edited By Sayantani Biswas
Updated10 Jul 2022
A demonstrator sleeps on the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's bed at the President's house on the following day after demonstrators entered the building, after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled, amid the country's economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka July 10, 2022. 
A demonstrator sleeps on the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s bed at the President’s house on the following day after demonstrators entered the building, after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled, amid the country’s economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka July 10, 2022. ;(REUTERS)

A colonial era symbol of power in the island nation of Sri Lanka's capital city Colombo signified ‘people power’ on Saturday when citizens en masse barged into the presidential palace of Gotabaya Rajapaksa in a protest to the faltering economic situation of the country. 

People took charge of every nook and corner of the household while, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 73, reportedly fled the country. On Sunday he was holed up in a navy ship offshore and has said he will resign on Wednesday.

Thousands of men, women and children, angered by the faltering economic crisis, were seen pouring into the imposing state mansion queuing to sit on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's chair on the upper floor while children and parents banged on a grand piano downstairs.

"We have been showing our displeasure by holding the flag saying that the system that they are continuing for 74 years is repressive of our people, our rights. They were oppressive towards people. They were just clinging on to power by using military forces that's why our sign was the black flag showing the descent to the government. The youth are against this system," news agency ANI quoted one of the protesters as saying.

Some protesters, holding Sri Lankan flags and helmets, broke into the president's residence, video footage from local TV news NewsFirst channel showed.

People inside the president's house took selfie with the expensive cars, while some took comfort on the linen spread in the bedroom. Visuals emerged on the people taking a dip in the pool, while some breaking bread together. 

People crowd inside the official residence of Sri Lanka's President, in Colombo on July 10, 2022. - Sri Lankan protesters refused to budge from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's residence on July 10 after storming his home, forcing him to flee with the navy and to announce his resignation.

News agency AP reported that some made tea, while others issued statements from a conference room demanding that the president and prime minister go.

In the imposing "Gordon Garden" park of the palace, chuckling families enjoyed a picnic lunch as shaven-headed Buddhist monks in saffron robes marvelled at the marble floors and central air conditioning.

Leaders of the protest movement in Sri Lanka who have forced the president and prime minister out of their official residences said on Sunday they will occupy the buildings until the two quit office.

"I have been visiting the protest camp every day and I will not stop until Gotabaya actually leaves office," said 49-year-old Chamari Wickremasinghe, a mother of two daughters, to news agency AFP.

"We are not going to leave here," she said while occupying the lobby of the Presidential Secretariat that until 1982 was the national parliament. "The promise to go by July 13 is not enough. He should quit now."

A man walks past a slogan written on the walls of a security room near the President's house on the following day after demonstrators entered the building, after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled, amid the country's economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka July 10

The chief of defence staff (CDS) general Shavendra Silva has meanwhile urged the protesters to maintain calm, and co-operate witht he armed forces and the police. He made these remarks in a special statement accompanied by Tri Force Commanders.

People stand next to the private residence of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, after demonstrators burnt it during a protest against him, amid the country's economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka July 10

Protesters in Sri Lanka also barged into Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's private residence and set it on fire on Saturday night

Sri Lanka’s opposition political parties will meet Sunday to agree on a new government a day after the country’s president and prime minister offered to resign in the most dramatic day of months long political turmoil, with protesters storming both leaders’ homes and setting fire to one of the buildings in a rage over the economic crisis.

The island nation is relying on aid from India and other nations as leaders try to negotiate a bailout with the IMF. Wickremesinghe said recently that negotiations with the IMF were complex because Sri Lanka was now a bankrupt state.

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