Sri Lanka crisis: Amid nationwide protests calling for the resignation of the Sri Lankan President, videos emerged show suitcases being loaded on a Navy ship. This comes after the Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled his residence earlier in the day.
The video shows three people loading several suitcases onto a Sri Lankan Navy Ship (SLNS), Gajabahu, in a hurry. Local media have claimed that the suitcases belonged to Rajapaksa.
Meanwhile, several private broadcasters also showed a vehicle convoy belonging to the president at Sri Lanka's main international airport, but it could not be confirmed whether he had left the island.
Protesters storm Rajapaksa's residence
Earlier in the day, thousands of protesters barged into President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s residence and nearby office as they took to the streets of the capital Colombo in the biggest demonstration yet to vent their fury against a leader they hold responsible for the island nation’s worst economic crisis. | READ MORE
Several video footage showed hundreds of people inside the well-fortified house and on the grounds outside, some taking a dip in the garden pool and others in a jubilant mood.
The protesters were watching television in the President's house and were rolling around on the President's bed. Outside the building, barricades were overturned and a black flag was hoisted on a pole. Videos shared by state media show the protesters swimming in the pool. Videos also showed protesters storming the residence, chanting “Gota go home,” calling the president by his nickname.
In May, the president’s older brother resigned as prime minister after violent protests saw him seek safety at a naval base, while three other Rajapaksa relatives had quit their Cabinet posts earlier. Much of the public ire has been pointed at the Rajapaksa family, with protesters blaming them for dragging Sri Lanka into chaos with poor management and allegations of corruption.
Lanka's crippling economic crisis
Sri Lanka’s economy is in a state of collapse, muddling through with aid from India and other countries as its leaders try to negotiate a bailout with the International Monetary Fund. The economic meltdown has led to severe shortages of essential items, leaving people struggling to buy food, fuel and other necessities.
In April, Sri Lanka announced it is suspending repaying foreign loans due to a foreign currency shortage. Its total foreign debt amounts to $51 billion of which it must repay $28 billion by the end of 2027.
Police had imposed a curfew in Colombo and several other main urban areas on Friday night but withdrew it Saturday morning amid objections by lawyers and opposition politicians who called it illegal.