All Cabinet Ministers in Sri Lanka resigned late on Sunday, amid raging protests by citizens asking the Rajapaksa administration to quit for “failing” the country in its crisis response.
They submitted their resignation to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who remains in office and is scheduled to meet President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Monday morning, Leader of the House Dinesh Gunawardena announced.
This paves the way for President Gotabaya to form a fresh Cabinet, amid demands from coalition partners for a “caretaker government”.
Cabinet members who decided to resign included three members of the ruling clan – Irrigation Minister Chamal Rajapaksa and Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, and Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa, who was among the first to resign at a heated discussion among Prime Minister Mahinda and Cabinet members, informed sources said.
Earlier, defying a curfew imposed by the government, Sri Lanka’s Opposition parties, several student groups and citizens took to the streets on Sunday, as public outrage swells over the Rajapaksa administration’s response to the economic crisis.
While the country awaits a critical economic recovery plan from the government, President Rajapaksa faces heightening pressure, including from his coalition partners. They are seeking a new caretaker government immediately, else threatening to quit.
In the afternoon, scores of university students in Colombo gathered near Nugegoda and marched chanting anti-government slogans. Despite heavy police presence, they persisted with the rally.
A similar protest was held by students of the University of Peradeniya in the central Kandy district, when police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse the crowd, local media reports said. Citizens continued holding pocket protests near their homes in different locations.
Authorities blocked access to major social media sites and messaging apps in the early hours of Sunday, reportedly seeing them as forums for anti-government mobilisations, but it was revoked later.
Separately, Sri Lanka’s main Opposition party Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) sought to hold a protest march at Colombo’s Independence Square on Sunday morning, when police and troops blocked them from marching to the venue.
The SJB’s allies and other prominent members of the Opposition, who were also present, said the Emergency and curfew were aimed at “quelling people’s protests”.
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Over the past week, citizen’s protests have intensified across Sri Lanka, as the country’s economic crisis worsened. Families and businesses are struggling amid a persisting shortage of food supplies and fuel, soaring prices of essentials, and long power cuts.
Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa accused the government of resorting to “authoritarianism”, “autocratic measures” and “dictatorship” to silence people’s voices. “Today is one of the darkest days of Sri Lanka’s democratic political life,” he told The Hindu. “The regime has used excessive power to subjugate and constrain the democratic rights of the people of the country.”
Mr. Premadasa said the party had come out on Sunday as the “alternative government” representing people’s concerns. Amid speculation of a “national government” being formed, he dismissed any “political deal” that might bring his party to power. “We will come to power only through a people’s mandate,” he said.
Earlier, police arrested government critic Anurudda Bandara for allegedly running a Facebook page called ‘Gota Go Home’. He was released on bail. The social media ban was revoked in the afternoon following wide criticism over the government “stifling free expression”, including from senior lawyer groups, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and the Opposition parties.