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Journalism of Courage

Sri Lanka Crisis: How the Presidential crisis unfolded

Here's a look at how the second phase of Sri Lankan protests unfolded.

Sri Lankan protesters, some carrying national flags, stand on top of prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe 's office, demanding he resign after president Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country amid economic crisis in Colombo, Sri Lanka, July 13, 2022. (AP)

The protests fuelled by the economic crisis flared in Sri Lanka again this week as the protesters stormed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s residence, forcing the leader to flee the country. Though the protesters had called for the President’s resignation, Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said that Gotabaya is yet to send in the letter hours after the promised time.

The events in the first week of July are the continuation of protests that have been going on since the first week of March when it emerged that Sri Lanka was experiencing a historic economic crisis. In the months that followed, the price of fuel and other necessities skyrocketed. The schools were closed and petrol, diesel and cooking fuels were rationed as the situation worsened.

Here’s a look at how the second phase of protests unfolded.

Storming the President’s residence

President Gotabaya fled his official residence in Colombo on July 9, as the protesters breached the police and security barriers and stormed first into the grounds and later the home. Two Defence Ministry sources told news agency Reuters that the President had been removed from the official premises on Friday for safety.

The protesters live-streamed the events and social media was soon flooded with images and videos of them strolling through the vast grounds of the colonial-era building. They watched cricket matches on the President’s huge television, wrestled on his bed, played music on his ornate piano and swam in his swimming pool.

Protesters swim as onlookers wait at a swimming pool in the President’s official residence a day after it was stormed in Colombo, Sri Lanka, July 10, 2022.(AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

Police fired shots in the air but were unable to stop the angry crowd from surrounding the Presidential residence, Reuters said quoting a witness. At least 21 people were injured in the clashes with the police.

Shake-up in the government

Following public pressure, the President informed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that he would resign on July 13. Following this, the Opposition parties decided to form an all-party interim government. The Cabinet Ministers too agreed to resign once an agreement is reached on the formation of an interim government. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said he will resign once the new government is formed.

“All the ministers who participated in the discussion were of the opinion that as soon as there is an agreement to form an all-party government, they are ready to hand over their responsibilities to that government,” the Prime Minister’s office said, reported PTI.

President flees the country


On July 11, news agency AFP reported that President Gotabaya has been moved to an airbase near the main international airport, sparking theories of a possible exile. It was later on July 13 announced that the President and his wife had flown to Male, the capital city of Maldives, in a military plane from where they flew to Singapore on July 14. The local media reported that the President’s final destination is Saudi Arabia and he will fly there from Singapore in the coming days.

Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, right, with his wife Ayoma (AP, file)

Though the President had assured that he would resign on July 13, his resignation letter has not yet reached the Speaker of the House. In his absence, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe is the acting President. Here’s a detailed look into what happens now.

Emergency, curfew declared

In the chaos that followed the President’s escape on Wednesday, the protesters stormed the Prime Minister’s office and residence, calling for Prime Minister Wickremesinghe to resign. In the clashes between the police and the protesters, one person was killed and at least 54 others sustained injuries. The Prime Minister declared an emergency and curfew in the Western Province, including the Colombo district, till 5 am of July 14. He later extended the curfew from 12 pm July 14 to 5 am July 15.


The protest leaders said they will vacate the public buildings shortly. However, as protests continued, the Sri Lankan Army said that its soldiers had been authorised to use necessary force to prevent the destruction of property and life, reported Reuters.

India’s denial

Throughout the ups and downs, India has maintained that it “stands with the people of Sri Lanka as they seek to realise their aspirations for prosperity & progress through democratic means & values, established institutions & constitutional framework.” New Delhi denied reports that India has sent troops to Sri Lanka for the second time in a few months.

“The High Commission would like to categorically deny speculative reports in sections of media and social media about India sending her troops to Sri Lanka. These reports and such views are also not in keeping with the position of the Government of India,” the Indian High Commission said in a tweet late Sunday.

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Later, after President Gotabaya flew to Male, India denied that it had facilitated his escape to the Maldives.

First published on: 14-07-2022 at 16:06 IST
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