Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has been ousted and embroiled in controversy on Sunday during his first public trip since protests erupted across the country demanding his ruling family resign due to the economic downturn.
Months of power outages and severe shortages of food, fuel, and medicine have caused widespread suffering on an Asian island in Southeast Asia, which has endured much economic hardship.
On Sunday he saw the prime minister, the brother of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, visiting one of the most sacred Buddhist temples — a tree known for its 23rd-century Anuradhapura.
But many men and women were carrying handwritten placards and singing hymns demanding that the “thieves” be shut out of the holy city, located about 200 miles[200 km]north of Colombo.
“We will worship you if you come down (as Prime Minister) and leave,” shouted one man.
The highly armed Commandos of the Special Task Force (STF) were deployed as police moved to clear the road for six Rajapaksa vehicles. Officials say the prime minister will return to headquarters by helicopter.
Many of the country’s roads have been closed to protesters with a shortage of cooking gas, petrol, and diesel.
The defense minister said in a statement that the protesters were acting “in a very provocative and threatening manner” and were disrupting essential services.
The government has imposed a state of emergency that has forced the military to evacuate and detain people on Friday, after unions took the country to a standstill in a bid to force President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign.
The 72-year-old president has not been seen in public since tens of thousands tried to raid his private compound in Colombo on March 31.
Since April 9, thousands have been sitting in front of his office in Colombo.
Mahinda Rajapaksa’s visit to Anuradhapura is part of the religious activities of the ruling family as it holds sway over the Buddhist nation.
Local media reported that the president’s shaman, Gnana Akka, had drained a bottle of water and brought it to the protesters in the hope that the move would succeed.
One report states that Shiranthi’s wife, a Catholic, had visited a Hindu temple in search of divine help in her family’s quest for power.
Sources say the president may ask his younger brother Mahinda to step down in an effort to clear the way for a unity government around Sri Lanka in this crisis.
But the main opposition party has said it will not join any government led by a Rajapaksa member of parliament.
Sri Lanka has been hit by an economic crisis after a coronavirus epidemic increased revenue from tourism and remittances.
In April, the country announced a $ 51 billion debt relief.
Finance Minister Ali Sabry warned last week that the country would have to endure unprecedented economic hardship for at least two more years.