'They've ruined our country': Protesters 'close to ridding Sri Lanka of the Rajapaksas'

Source: news.sky.com : 2022-07-11 11:18:00 :

Thousands of people lined up for hours in Colombo’s midday sun for an unprecedented glimpse of one of the most powerful buildings in the country, the official presidential residence.

Queues snaked around the block. Some people told us they’d been waiting for more than six hours to enter.

The city has never seen anything like it.

The president’s house has become the people’s palace and they’re revelling in the moment.

Crowds throng around the pool and families climb the sweeping staircase to the second floor to take in the massive chandelier, the comfy couches, and the pool table.

Here we meet Niranji Perena. She’s brought her teenage daughter to the grand house for the last two days.

Ms Perena told Sky News she’s disgusted to see the waste and expenditure here while ordinary Sri Lankans are suffering.

She blames the Rajapaksa political dynasty for the country’s economic collapse.

“They’ve ruined our country beyond repair,” she said. “We initially voted for them, but they took huge loans from China and I don’t think they had any plans about how to pay them back.”

Ms Perena reminisced about taking holidays in Europe. Now the family can’t afford to buy fuel, even if it was available.

She walked two miles to visit the president’s house.

In another wing, a group of protest leaders protects the president’s bedroom.

Read more: Protesters swim in Sri Lanka president’s pool – and warn they’re staying until he leaves office

Pictures to  go with Nicole Johnston Sri lanka Gotabaya Rajapaksa  Presidential  House eyewitness
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Crowds have flocked to the presidential building to see the wealth on display inside
Pictures to  go with Nicole Johnston Sri lanka Gotabaya Rajapaksa  Presidential  House eyewitness

With its soaring ceilings and four-poster bed, it stands as a symbol of the extreme chasm between the rich and powerful and the poor.

The president had a vast marble bathroom and an outdoor jacuzzi to use.

Protesters aren’t allowing the general public into this part of the building. They say it must be preserved for the country’s next leader.

‘People have no food or electricity’

Angelo Kulasooriya says the house belongs to future generations.

He adds that the first time he saw the bedroom it made him angry.

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Inside Sri Lanka’s presidential palace

“People outside are suffering without electricity,” he said. “People have no food. They have no fuel.”

Protesters and the massive crowds who’ve come out to visit the president’s house sense they are close to winning this battle to rid the country of the Rajapaksas.

At the weekend, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced he would resign on Wednesday.

Pictures to  go with Nicole Johnston Sri lanka Gotabaya Rajapaksa  Presidential  House eyewitness
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Angelo Kulasooriya said he was angry when he saw the inside of the residence

Read more:
Inside Sri Lanka’s presidential palace
Sri Lanka’s president and PM to resign

And on Monday cabinet members announced they would also resign once an all-party government is formed.

This would pave the way for a new prime minister to be appointed.

People are demanding the current prime minister, Ranil Wickramasinghe, resign.

If the president and the prime minister both quit, many Sri Lankans will feel that months of hardship and ongoing demonstrations will not have been entirely in vain.

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