Protesters sitting at a desk in the prime minister’s office and waving national flags from the building’s rooftop terraces. Ordinary Sri Lankans sprawling in plush living rooms, playing a piano and marveling at paintings in the vacated presidential palace.
The images of protesters taking over government buildings amid clouds of tear gas and making themselves at home in the lavish surroundings are a striking contrast to the privations of everyday life amid Sri Lanka’s economic collapse.
The protesters, who occupied the presidential residence since Saturday and stormed the prime minister’s office on Wednesday, vowed they would stay until both men resign. But they announced on Thursday they were leaving after the Parliament speaker said he was seeking legal options to consider since President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had fled the country without submitting his resignation letter as promised.
Security forces had initially used tear gas to try to disperse the protesters at the prime minister’s office.
At the presidential palace, guards continued their patrols but didn’t intervene as farmers, laborers and students crowded the hallways and airy verandas of the colonial-era residence.
“This belongs to the people,” laborer Padama Gamage declared at the president’s residence after traveling on a bus from Galle, on the country’s southwestern tip, to Colombo to join the demonstrations. “Now I know how these leaders enjoyed luxury at our cost.”
Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.