“Gottabhaya Rajapaksa is the cancer of Sri Lanka! A new beginning is finally possible for our country,” says Zeena with a happy smile. It’s after midnight on Thursday evening, but the father has joined the empty face mask protest site in Colombo to celebrate the “peaceful victory of a people”.
Jubilant, demonstrators danced and set off fireworks in front of the presidential offices, whose shutters lay on the ground as crowds took over the historic building during monster protests over the weekend. “We never dreamed that we would succeed in removing such a powerful president from power,” Rajitha Gunasekara exclaims with joy, his voice cracking.
This crystallized the anger of the street, which accuses President Gotabaya Rajapaksa of running the island of 22 million people into the abyss and emptying the state coffers for three months. The 73-year-old left for Singapore last Saturday after taking refuge in the Maldives. But the ex-serviceman delayed in formally announcing his resignation, which he had promised to submit on July 13. Was he trying to buy time and retain the immunity attached to his office?
Finally, a resignation email reached Parliament on Thursday evening, which accepted the resignation the next morning and transferred the highest powers of executive power to its Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, condemned by the crowd.
The once-untouchable Rajapaksa clan led by the elder Mahinda Rajapaksa – president and prime minister during his time – is now loathed by a broad opposition movement demanding accountability. In their downfall, the two brothers, once considered heroes of the war against the Tamil insurgency, took with them nearly two decades of political dominance.
On the steps of the presidential office building, activist Marisa de Silva vows: “Sri Lanka’s political future must be rebuilt.”
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