After protestors stormed his office on Wednesday, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe ordered the military to take “whatever action is necessary to restore order.” President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who has left the country, has appointed Mr. Wickremesinghe to serve in that capacity. However, the choice to leave him in charge resulted in additional demonstrations calling for the resignation of the prime minister as well. The economic crisis in Sri Lanka is the worst it has been in many years.
Many attribute the situation to the Rajapaksa administration and regard Mr. Wickremesinghe, who took office as prime minister in May, as contributing to the issue. On Wednesday, demonstrators stormed into a very guarded governmental building for the second time in less than a week. This time, the prime minister’s office was involved. People in the prime minister’s office sat on sumptuous sofas and took pictures, mirroring earlier weekend scenes at the occupied president’s official mansion, while others stood on chairs and desks and waved the Sri Lankan flag. In a speech on television, Mr. Wickremesinghe urged demonstrators to vacate his office and other state structures and cooperate with law enforcement. “We can’t tear up our constitution. We can’t allow fascists to take over. We must end this fascist threat to democracy,” he said. As word spread that President Rajapaksa had gone to the Maldives, the uproar persisted. After his official mansion was attacked on Saturday, the president fled and announced his intention to step down.
It is believed that the leader, who has enjoyed protection from prosecution as president, planned to leave the country before resigning to escape the prospect of being detained by the new administration. But he hasn’t yet turned in an official resignation letter.