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Protesters to ‘Not Budge’ from Prez House until he resigns; Ambulance service cut off amid ‘No Fuel’

Colombo: An All Parties Srilankan Government will be formed after the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared he will resign on Tuesday.

The dramatic events are the culmination of months of protests by people enraged by Sri Lanka’s unprecedented economic crisis and the Rajapaksa clan’s ‘incompetence and corruption’

Sri Lankan protesters refused to budge from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s residence on Sunday, a day after they stormed his home, forcing him to flee with the navy and announce he would resign.

“Our struggle is not over,” student leader Lahiru Weerasekara told reporters the day after Rajapaksa, currently taking refuge on a vessel offshore, said he would step down on Wednesday. “We won’t give up this struggle until he actually leaves.”

The dramatic events on Saturday were the culmination of months of protests by people enraged by the South Asian island nation’s unprecedented economic crisis and the Rajapaksa clan’s incompetence and corruption.

Hundreds of thousands massed in Colombo demanding Rajapaksa take responsibility for shortages of medicines, food and fuel that have brought the once-relatively rich economy to its knees and caused misery for ordinary people.

After storming the gates of the colonial-era presidential palace, protesters lounged in its opulent rooms, somersaulting into the compound’s pool and rummaging through Rajapaksa’s clothes.

At a clock tower near the palace, activists hung an effigy of Rajapaksa on Sunday evening as thousands of onlookers cheered. The streets leading to the palace were choked with people, some carrying toddlers and wheeling along the elderly.

Meanwhile, India has denied reports of sending any troops to Sri Lanka. “These reports and such views are not in keeping with the position of Government of India,” a clarification by the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka read.

Colombo National Hospital said 105 people were brought in Saturday and that 55 remained under treatment on Sunday, including one in a “very critical” state with a gunshot wound. After midnight Sri Lanka’s top military officer, General Shavendra Silva, went on TV to appeal for calm and to “resolve the crisis situation peacefully and constitutionally”.

A defence source told that Rajapaksa, along with one of his brothers — Basil — was heading to a naval base in the northeast of the island. However, there was no official word their whereabouts.

Due to a fuel shortage, the 1990 Suwa Seriya Ambulance Service will be unavailable in some areas, NewsWire reported. “We kindly request that the public refrain from dialling 1990 to request service in these areas,” the PSA in the report said.

Washington urged Sri Lankan leaders to act quickly to address the situation “with a commitment to the betterment of the nation — not any one political party”. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that Russia’s restrictions on Ukrainian grain exports and the resulting rise in prices “may have contributed” to Sri Lanka’s economic turmoil.

The European Union urged “all parties to cooperate and focus on a peaceful, democratic and orderly transition”.

On Sunday it was unclear who, if anyone, would be able to garner enough support among lawmakers to succeed Rajapaksa. “We are heading for dangerous uncertainty,” minority Tamil legislator Dharmalingam Sithadthan told AFP. “Gota should have resigned immediately without leaving a power vacuum.”

The bankrupt government has defaulted on its $51 billion external debt and is seeking an International Monetary Fund bailout. The IMF said Sunday that it hopes for “a resolution of the current situation that will allow for resumption of our dialogue”.