Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has offered his resignation amid widespread protests in the country undergoing its worst economic and political crisis since independence.
“The prime minister has sent his letter of resignation to the president,” an unnamed official, who declined to be named, told Reuters on Monday.
The move comes days after President Gotbaya Rajapaksa, the prime minister’s younger brother, asked the prime minister to step down as a solution to the ongoing political crisis in the country at a special meeting.
President Rajapaksa is also expected to invite the political parties now in parliament to form an all-party cabinet, following the prime minister’s resignation.
The prime minister’s resignation comes amid strong protests in Sri Lanka that have been ongoing for weeks with government supporters clashing with anti-government protesters outside Mahinda Rajapaksa’s office on Monday.
Local reports said hundreds of troops were deployed and an indefinite curfew was imposed in Colombo after the clash between the two factions.
Police also used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters from both sides after they started clashing with each other.
Supporters of the prime minister demonstrated outside his office after reports said he may resign.
“Whose power? The power of Mahinda!” Government supporters screamed as the gates to the compound opened to allow them inside.
Supporters attacked anti-government protesters — who have been demonstrating since April 9 — with clubs, demolishing and then burning their tents.
Police said at least 20 people were injured in the attack.
Thousands of supporters of Prime Minister Rajapaksa were bussed in from across the country to gather at his official residence.
The prime minister also addressed the group before resigning, saying he will do what is in the public interest.
The attack on protesters came a day after Rajapaksa was heckled during his first public outing since nationwide protests erupted. He was visiting one of the holiest Buddhist temples, home to a tree said to be 2,300 years old, in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.
For several months, Sri Lankans have endured long queues to buy fuel, cooking gas, food and medicine, most of which comes from abroad.
Foreign exchange shortages have also hampered imports of raw materials for manufacturing and worsened inflation, which rose to 18.7 percent in March.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the unions began a “Week of Protests” demanding the resignation of the president. Union activist Saman Rathnapriya told the media that more than 1,000 unions representing health, ports, education and other key service sectors have joined the movement.
During the week, he said, workers will hold demonstrations at their workplaces across the country. At the end of the week, they will launch a big march to parliament, demanding the removal of President Rajapaksa and a new government.
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