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Protesters in Sri Lanka negotiate an end to the occupation

#Protesters #Sri #Lanka #negotiate #occupation

Sri Lanka’s anti-government protesters were in talks on Thursday to return the official buildings they have seized, protesters said, despite insisting the president and prime minister both resign amid an economic crisis.

Protesters overran President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s palace over the weekend, forcing him to flee to the Maldives on Wednesday, as activists also stormed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office.

The prime minister, whom Rajapaksa appointed acting president in his absence, has called for state buildings to be evacuated and ordered security forces to “do what is necessary to restore order”.

A high-profile Buddhist monk who supported the campaign called for the more than 200-year-old presidential palace to be returned to the authorities and its valuable art and artifacts preserved.

“This building is a national treasure and should be protected,” monk Omalpe Sobitha told reporters. “There must be a proper examination and the property returned to the state.”

Hundreds of thousands have visited the site since it was opened to the public after Rajapaksa fled and his security forces gave in.

“There are moves to return the buildings to the authorities,” an activist involved in the #GotaGoHome campaign told AFP.

In a televised address after thousands of people swarmed his Colombo office, Wickremesinghe stated: “Those who go to my office want to prevent me from carrying out my responsibilities as Acting President.

“We cannot allow fascists to take power. That’s why I’ve declared a nationwide state of emergency and a curfew,” he added.

The curfew was lifted at dawn on Thursday, but police said a soldier and a police officer were injured in late-night clashes with protesters outside the national parliament.

The attack on the legislature was repelled, unlike in other places where the protesters had spectacular success.

The main hospital in Colombo said about 85 people were admitted with injuries on Wednesday, with one man choking and dying after a tear gas attack on the prime minister’s office.

Rajapaksa had promised to step down on Wednesday but there was no announcement that he had done so.

He stayed in the Maldives, reportedly waiting for a private jet to take him, his wife Ioma and two bodyguards to Singapore.

Diplomatic sources said Rajapaksa’s attempts to obtain a visa to the United States were denied because he renounced his US citizenship in 2019 before running for president.

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