How Economic Ruin Led Thousands To Storm President’s House (In Photos)


Anti-government demonstrations in Sri Lanka reached a fever pitch Saturday as protesters broke into President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s residence and demanded his resignation over an ongoing economic collapse—here’s how the situation reached this point.

Key Facts

Sri Lanka long had a stable economy with a growing middle class but conditions quickly deteriorated this year—and Sri Lankans are pointing the finger at what they say are corrupt leaders who wasted the country’s wealth.

The country’s economy is a disaster by any definition: the Sri Lankan rupee has lost more than 80% of its value, food costs have skyrocketed by over 50% and tourism—one of the country’s main revenue sources—has significantly diminished due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sri Lanka shut off fuel sales to most residents last week over concerns it would run out of petroleum, becoming the first country to broadly restrict fuel sales since the oil crisis of the 1970s.

Sri Lanka also owes more than $50 billion in debts and has been unable to pay interest accrued on its loans.

The country is reportedly in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund for a $3 billion bailout package, but the deal is expected to come with many strings attached to ensure the money is not mishandled by politicians.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe signaled Saturday he is willing to resign after serving less than two months in office, but President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has resisted calls to relinquish power.

Key Background

Saturday’s storming of the palace capped months of regular demonstrations throughout the country calling for Rajapaksa’s resignation. Rajapaksa has declared national states of emergency on multiple occasions in response, and has called up the country’s Army and imposed curfews in an attempt to contain the protests. Demonstrators claimed a major victory in May, when Mahinda Rajapaksa—the president’s older brother—agreed to step down as prime minister following mass resignations from Sri Lanka’s cabinet.