Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa reportedly fled his official residence in the capital on Saturday after his residence has been surrounded by protestors, AFP reported.
The police fired tear gas at protestors demanding that Rajapaksa and his government resign over the island nation’s worst economic crisis in recent memory.
Thousands of protesters carrying Sri Lankan flags rode on the relatively few vehicles on the roads due to an acute fuel shortage, while others rode bicycles and many walked to protest sites in the capital, Colombo, from the suburbs after police lifted an overnight curfew.
Protesters blame Rajapaksa for the economic woes and have occupied the entrance to his office for three months.
Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said last month that the country's economy has collapsed. The government's negotiations with the International Monetary Fund have been complex because it has now entered negotiations as a bankrupt state.
In April, Sri Lanka announced it is suspending repaying foreign loans due to a foreign currency shortage. Its total foreign debt amounts to $51 billion of which it must repay $28 billion by the end of 2027.
Police imposed a curfew in Colombo and several other main urban areas on Friday night but withdrew it Saturday morning amid objections by lawyers and opposition politicians who called it illegal.
Riot police and army personnel are deployed in the city, and the area surrounding the president's official residence is heavily barricaded.
U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung on Friday asked people to protest peacefully and called for the military and police “to grant peaceful protesters the space and security to do so.”
“Chaos & force will not fix the economy or bring the political stability that Sri Lankans need right now,” Chung said in a tweet.