Ten injured in scuffle inside Sri Lankan PM Ranil Wickremesinghe's official residence occupied by protesters

July 12, 2022 04:27 pm | Updated 06:31 pm IST - Colombo

The Prime Minister’s media unit in a complaint to the Kollupitiya Police Station said equipment from the media section of his official residence Temple Trees have been stolen.

A view of a part of the private residence of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe after it was burned by demonstrators during the protest against him, amid the country’s economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on July 10. | Photo Credit: Reuters

At least 10 persons, including a woman, were injured on July 12 when a scuffle took place inside Araliyagaha Mandir, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's official residence, occupied by Sri Lankan protesters since Saturday, the media reported on July 12.

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Ten people were admitted to the National Hospital in Colombo after the confrontation between protesters who have currently been staying inside the Prime Minister’s official residence, the Colombo Post news portal reported.

Protesters demanding the resignation of President Gotabya Rajapaksa as well as of the Prime Minister on Friday occupied the President’s House, the President’s Secretariat and the Prime Minister's official residence Temple trees.

The sites have been opened for public thronging the residences since Saturday to find out as to what lies behind the most protected places in the country.

According to the Colombo Post, many valuable and ancient items, including a large stock of gifts and souvenirs, have reportedly been stolen from the sites that have served as the official residences of Governors and Presidents for decades. Videos of people taking away rare artefacts have been doing rounds on social media.

The Prime Minister’s media unit in a complaint to the Kollupitiya Police Station said equipment from the media section of his official residence Temple Trees have been stolen.

Two laptops, a video camera, and other camera equipment have been stolen from the media department, Colombo Page portal quoted the Prime Minister’s media division as saying.

Mr. Wickramasinghe did not move to Temple Trees after becoming the Prime Minister and only a part of his media unit was established in a building on the premises, Lankadeepa reported.

The Prime Minister’s media unit said the equipment was missing since the protesters entered the Temple Trees building. Earlier, anti-government protesters on Saturday night set on fire Mr. Wickremesinghe’s private residence at Cambridge Place, inflicting extensive damage to the property.

Reacting publicly for the first time after the arson attack on Saturday, Mr. Wickremesinghe on Monday said only people with a "Hitler-like mindset" torch buildings. “My only house was set on fire. I had 2,500 books in my library, my only asset. There were over 200-year-old valuable paintings. All of them destroyed," he said. The incident came hours after Mr. Wickremesinghe offered to resign to make way for an all-party government.

The arson attack took place after hundreds of anti-government protesters stormed into the President's residence in central Colombo's high-security Fort area after breaking the barricades, as they demanded his resignation over the island nation's worst economic crisis in recent memory.

Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million people, is under the grip of an unprecedented economic turmoil, the worst in seven decades, crippled by an acute shortage of foreign exchange that has left it struggling to pay for essential imports of fuel, and other essentials.

The country, with an acute foreign currency crisis that resulted in foreign debt default, had announced in April that it is suspending nearly $7 billion foreign debt repayment due for this year out of about $25 billion due through 2026. Sri Lanka's total foreign debt stands at $51 billion.

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