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PM Mahinda Rajapaksa resigns amid worst economic crisis; Lanka imposes nationwide curfew

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Colombo:  Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned on Monday amid unprecedented economic turmoil, hours after his supporters attacked anti-government protesters outside President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office, leaving at least 130 people injured and prompting authorities to impose a nationwide curfew and deploy army troops in the capital.

Prime Minister Mahinda, 76, sent his resignation letter to the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa after violent scenes were witnessed in Colombo.

“Effective immediately I have tendered my resignation as Prime Minister to the President,” Mahinda tweeted.

Prime Minister Mahinda in his resignation letter said that he is stepping down to pave way for the All-Party Interim Government to be formed.

“I write to inform (you) that I have decided to resign from the post of prime minister with immediate effect. This is in line with your request made at the special cabinet meeting held on May 6, wherein you said that you intend to set up an all party interim government,” he wrote in his resignation letter.

He said that he will be “ready to make any sacrifice even in the future in order to help the people and the government overcome the present crisis.”

At least two Cabinet ministers have also announced their resignations.

The violence occurred as pressure mounted on the embattled government led by his younger brother and President Gotabaya to form an interim administration to overcome the worst economic crisis facing the country.

Curfew was imposed islandwide with immediate effect until further notice, a police spokesperson was quoted as saying by the local media.

A military contingent was deployed to the protest site to assist law enforcement after clashes between pro-government and protestors at MynaGoGama and GotaGoGama protest sites left around 130 people injured.

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.

Thousands of demonstrators have hit the streets across Sri Lanka since April 9 seeking resignation of President Gotabaya and Prime Minister Mahinda, as the government ran out of money for vital imports; prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed and there are acute shortages in fuel, medicines and electricity supply.

Earlier, President Gotabaya and Prime Minister Mahinda had appealed to the people to exercise restraint and remember that violence only begets violence, saying the economic crisis needs an economic solution which his government is committed to resolving.

“Strongly condemn the violent acts taking place by those inciting & participating, irrespective of political allegiances. Violence won’t solve the current problems. I request all citizens to remain calm & exercise restraint. I urge everyone to work together in solving this crisis,” the President said in a tweet.

The Prime Minister also urged the people to exercise restraint.

“While emotions are running high in #lka, I urge our general public to exercise restraint & remember that violence only begets violence. The economic crisis we’re in needs an economic solution which this administration is committed to resolving,” Mahinda tweeted.

Mahinda, who was under intense pressure from within his own Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) ranks to resign, was earlier gathering his supporters to apply counterpressure not to stand down.

“I am so used to seeing protests and agitations, nothing would deter me. I am experienced enough to face any situation,” Rajapaksa said.

A tense situation prevailed as a group of supporters of Prime Minister Mahinda attacked the protesters outside the ‘Maina Go Gama’, a protest site near Temple Trees, the official residence of the Prime Minister, Daily Mirror, an online news platform, reported.

The tents opposite Temple Trees were dismantled by a mob, Lanka First, a leading news network, reported.

Police used water cannons to disperse the unruly SLPP protestors who are at the Galle Face green protest site, Hiru News website reported. At least 23 people were injured in the violence.

The police formed a human chain to prevent the protesters from entering Gota Go Gama.

However, the mob pushed their way past the police human chain and attacked Gota Go Gama.

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