Sri Lanka Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned on Monday soon after violent clashes erupted between pro- and anti-government supporters in capital Colombo as the country reels under the worst economic crisis. Reports said a legislator of the ruling party has died in the clashes.
MP Amarakeerthi Athukorala opened fire and critically wounded two people blocking his car in Nittambuwa, and was later found dead after trying to take refuge in a nearby building, the AFP reported.
Sri Lanka has been witnessing unprecedented demonstrations for the last several weeks with the protesters demanding the resignations of Prime Minister Rajapaksa and his younger brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The agitators want an interim government to be formed to overcome the worst economic crisis facing the country.
“A few moments ago, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa sent his letter of resignation to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa,” said a statement issued by the prime minister’s office.
The 76-year-old leader said he was resigning to help form an interim, unity government. “Multiple stakeholders have indicated the best solution to the present crisis is the formation of an interim all-party government. Therefore, I have tendered my resignation so the next steps can be taken in accordance with the Constitution,” he said.
Two cabinet ministers—Channa Jayasumana and Widura Wickramanayake—have also announced their resignations, reports said.
At least 130 people have been injured in Monday’s violence, prompting authorities to impose a nationwide curfew and deploy army troops in the capital. The defence secretary has urged public support to maintain peace in the country, while three-armed forces have been called in to assist police for public security. Leave for all police personnel were cancelled until further notice.
Sri Lanka is currently in the throes of unprecedented economic turmoil since its independence from Britain in 1948. The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.
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