What to know about the upheaval in Sri Lanka

Protesters demanding the resignation of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa gather inside the compound of Sri Lanka’s Presidential Palace in Colombo on July 9, 2022. (AFP/Getty Images)

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country early Wednesday, the day he had pledged he would resign amid protests against the government’s handling of a dire economic crisis.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s flight signified the Rajapaksa dynasty’s fall from political favor as the South Asian country undergoes an upheaval. Basil Rajapaksa, his brother and the former Sri Lankan finance minister, unsuccessfully tried to leave the country Tuesday, two people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post.

The speaker of the country’s Parliament announced Saturday that the president had agreed to step down, after protesters stormed the presidential residence and office in a dramatic escalation of public anger toward Sri Lanka’s leaders.

Political parties in Sri Lanka met Sunday morning, a day after thousands of demonstrators descended on the presidential palace in Colombo, the capital, demanding the resignation of the president, whose family is held responsible by many for the country’s dire economic straits. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said Saturday that he, too, would give up his post “to make way for an All-Party Government.” Nonetheless, protesters set his home on fire.

The demonstrations are the latest in a months-long protest movement sparked by an unprecedented economic crisis in the South Asian nation. Fuel has almost run out, food prices and hunger have spiked, and the country defaulted on its foreign debt repayment. The turmoil has felled the political dynasty that dominated Sri Lanka for nearly two decades.

Protesters have vowed to occupy the presidential residence and prime minister’s home until Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe formally resign. On Wednesday, a crowd stormed the prime minister’s office, as well. Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed Wickremesinghe acting president in his absence. But, as of early afternoon, the promised resignations had not materialized — and frustration in the streets of Colombo was palpable.

Here’s how Sri Lanka got here:

Sri Lankan protesters storm president’s home amid economic crisis