Protesters in Sri Lanka who spent the weekend occupying the president’s palace have now entered and torched the prime minister’s private mansion as well.
Photos and videos posted to social media show Sri Lankans enjoying the luxuries of the estates, documenting themselves lounging on furniture, swimming in pools, and even working out in the home gym.
The decadence of these homes, which many Sri Lankans are witnessing for the first time, stands in sharp contrast to the strained economic conditions the nation is currently suffering from due to the government’s economic mismanagement.
The country is bankrupt and there are dire food, medicine and fuel shortages that are creating an uncertain future for the South Asian country.
Protesters who descended on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s palace this past weekend have insisted they will occupy the buildings until he and other government officials have gone for good.
Rajapaksa has not been seen in public since he was driven out of office last week, but has said he will officially resign on Wednesday.
Those on the ground say this has been the boiling point for the Sri Lankan people’s frustrations.
“For three months, we have not had gas supply properly. We don’t have electricity, so it becomes very difficult to cook,” said human rights activist Shreen Saroor.
Saroor said that fuel and food prices had reached an all-time high, and those with the least have been suffering the most.
The conditions have contributed to the mass revolt that has been building for months.
“Seeing the sheer number of people at the presidential secretariat, it was just completely unreal for me,” said Marlon Ariyasinghe, an editor at Himal South Asian magazine, who has been reporting on unrest.
“I haven’t seen this many people congregating in one place and showing dissent, united in that common goal against the current government, and the president, and the PM. That is something that I have never seen.”
While protesters remain steadfast in their occupation of the premises until the current government is gone, what comes next is still unclear. Prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he would also resign, but will stay on until a new government is in place.
And alongside the power vacuum, there are still crises that will not suddenly stop either, Ariyasingh said.
“We still have two days of severe fossil fuel shortage … there is a medicine and medical equipment shortage. There is a looming food crisis that is coming our way,” he said.
“I think Sri Lankans understand that the next six months are going to be very, very difficult. They need to be very resilient in order to get through these six months until an IMF deal is agreed and negotiated.”
Sri Lanka has been negotiating a bailout program with the IMF, but it has been complicated by the fact the country is now bankrupt. That deal is what experts think could be the first step out of this mess.
“The sooner we get that, we can also get other support because other countries are not going to support [Sri Lanka] up until we finalize an IMF agreement,” said Umesh Moramudali, a lecturer of economics at the University of Colombo.
So, for now, protesters continue to occupy the presidential palace and enjoy the amenities, as Sri Lankans wait for a new government, fuel for the pumps, food on the table, and the crisis to end.
Raksha Kumar contributed to this report. The radio interview with Marlon Ariyasinghe was produced by Ashish Valentine and edited by Justine Kenin.
This article was syndicated from NPR (NPR – Breaking News, Analysis, Music, Arts & Podcasts : NPR) and was originally published on 13 July 2022. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the author, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article (Sri Lankan protesters party in the president’s mansion as he flees the country : NPR).