The Protest at President's House, Colombo (9 July 2022)

President's House Protest
A crowd of hundreds of thousands of people who demanded the resignation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa after months of protests over economic mismanagement stormed the President's House in Colombo, the official residence and workplace of the Sri Lankan President, as well as the Presidential Secretariat and Temple Trees, the official residence of the Prime Minister, on 9 July 2022. The events appeared as a show of striking public fury occurred after months of mainly peaceful protests in the country. As a result of the protests, the President, as well as Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, decided to step down from their positions.

Sri Lanka economic crisis
The economy of Sri Lanka deteriorated gradually since the Rajapaksa family got power over the island in 2019. The 2019 Easter Sunday bomb attack on several hotels (Shangri-La Hotel, The Kingsbury, Cinnamon Grand) and churches (St. Anthony's Church, St. Sebastian's Church, Batticaloa Zion Church), and the Covid-19 pandemic in the next years badly affected the economy of the country. This was further fueled by the foreign debt borrowed heavily on projects that don’t earn money, corrupted family rule and the number of wrong decisions taken out by the Rajapaksa regime as well as by previous governments.

According to the view of some independent politicians and protesters, President Gatabaya’s nepotism was one of the main causes of the country's worst economic situation. He had been widely criticized for appointing his brothers as ministers and giving other key positions to relatives. At the time of the economic crisis, the government's finance minister (Basil Rajapaksa), prime minister (Mahinda Rajapaksa) and agriculture minister (Chamal Rajapaksa) were the president’s brothers while his nephew (Namal Rajapaksa) was the sports minister.

During the first two and half years of the tenure of Gotabaya, the country's foreign exchange reserves fell by more than 70%. The shortage of dollars restricted the buying of essential items like food, medicine, paper and fuel and it also led to a sharp spike in their prices. The run out of foreign currency to pay for fuel to power vehicles and generate power disrupted many businesses, education and day-to-day life for millions. Long lines occurred outside fuel and gas stations, while people had to queue up for hours in the heat. Also, electricity lines across the country were switched off for more than 12 hours, forcing the hospitals to halt routine surgeries.

The protest
Multiple groups and associations called for protests on 9 July 2022 and the messaging got wide social media and press coverage. Meanwhile, the police tried to get a restraining order preventing the protestors from entering the vicinity of the President’s House on 9 July but the request was rejected by the Colombo Magistrate’s Court. Also, a police curfew that was suddenly imposed by them on the 8th night in several police divisions in the Western Province had to be lifted on Saturday morning after it was denounced as illegal by lawyers and opposition politicians. 

On 9 July Many people came to Colombo through buses and trains while others travelled by bicycle and on foot as fuel was scarce. Huge crowds converged near the President's House, chanting slogans and waving the national flag. In the afternoon, despite water cannons and tear gas attacks by the police, protestors breached the barricades and entered the President's House property. At the time, Rajapaksa was not at the home and he had been moved to a secure place.

Social media footage showed protestors roaming through the house and swimming in the president's pool, while others emptied out a chest of drawers, picked through the president's belongings and used his luxurious bathroom. Later in the day, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe's private home in an affluent neighbourhood of Colombo was set on fire by angry protestors.

At least 55 people were injured during the protests.

President's House Protest
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