'We will occupy Parliament next if...' At Ground Zero with Sri Lankan protesters
Asianet News reporter Manu Sankar reports from Galle Face, the centre point of Sri Lankan protests over the severe crisis that has engulfed the island nation for nearly 100 days. Protesters in Colombo say they will continue to occupy the significant government buildings till President Gotabaya Rajapaksa steps down.
We will occupy the Parliament next, say protesters who have been camping at President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's office and residence, demanding his resignation.
Asianet News spoke to protesters, some of whom have been out on the streets for 96 days against the Sri Lankan government and the Rajapaksa family over the economic ruin of the island nation.
The expectation is simple: Gotabaya must resign today.
The Galle Face, the socio-cultural centre of Sri Lanka, is thronging with people lining up to enter the President's house, which protesters have currently occupied. The protesters have been cooking inside the presidential kitchen, using the facilities, playing games and even holding meetings.
Speaking to Asianet News, a protester said: "Today, we are waiting for Gotabaya's resignation. We have suffered a lot. Today, he should definitely resign; otherwise, this protest will not end. This is the 96th day. We are sleeping here, having food here because we do not have the petrol to travel home. I have not seen my parents for three months; they live far away. We are in a position where we can't live in our own country. We want our country back. So if he (Gotabaya) does not resign, we will go to the Parliament and occupy that too."
Expectations are high from a new government. "The Rajapaksa family has taken our money. They have not done anything for the country. That's the majority view of people that if someone new comes in, that person will take care of the country. He will definitely take care of the system. We are waiting for that," a protester said.
Gotabaya reportedly arrived in Male, the capital of the Maldives, around 3 AM local time and was received at the Velana airport by a Maldivian government representative. Sources said he had been taken to an undisclosed location under police escort.
"We do not care if he (Gotabaya) has left the country. But we need resignation," she added.
The protesters currently occupy three main buildings in the national capital. These include the prime minister's official residence, the President's House and the presidential secretariat.