Sri Lanka: The Presidential Palace resounds with laughter and piano notes

Sri Lanka: the presidential palace resounds with bursts of laughter and piano notes

Inherited from During the colonial era, it symbolized the authority of the state for more than 200 years, but on Sunday, after the president's flight, it was “the power of the people” that stood out. is installed there.

The day after the storming of the presidential palace, the demonstrators staged in the various luxurious rooms of the residence.

The protesters who chased the Sri Lankan president from his palace in Colombo had every intention on Sunday of continuing to happily occupy the building until he resigns next Wednesday, as he will. ;promised.

The mood was high among the protesters. Joy of victory, since the president promised that he would leave his post. But also the more immediate joy of enjoying for a few hours the luxury usually reserved for state leaders.

Our struggle is not over, explained Lahiru Weerasekara, one of the student leaders of the movement. We won't give up until he's really gone, he told reporters.

In the evening, a model at the The effigy of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was hung on the porch of a clock tower, to the applause of the large crowd outside the presidential residence.

The Head of State, a refugee on board a military ship and en route to a base in the northeast of the island, announced on Saturday evening, after a day marked by several violent outbursts by protesters, that he was ready to step down on July 13.

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people had gathered in the district of the official residences to show their anger at the unprecedented economic crisis that the country is experiencing and for which they deem the president partly responsible.

Protesters continue to invade the President's official residence the day after his storming in Colombo.

Several hundred of them managed to break into the palace, scaling the gates as guards struggled to hold them off just long enough to lead the president away.

On Sunday, some line up to sit on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's chair on the upper floor while on the ground floor children – and their parents – bang on the keys of a grand piano.

In the imposing park, the Gordon Gardens named in memory of their designer Sir Arthur Hamilton-Gordon, governor of Ceylon at the end of the 19th century, cheerful families picnic amidst Buddhist monks with shaved heads and in saffron dresses marveling at the air conditioning and marble floors.

Sri Lanka's colonial-era presidential palace has embodied state authority for more than 200 years.

Heavily armed presidential guards still on duty mingle with the new visitors who have become masters of the place and even pose for selfies alongside them.

Families crowd to take photos in front of works overpriced art or decorative objects and jokes abound.

Do not damage the paintings, it was not Gotabaya who painted them, enjoin signs written by hand by student activists, at the forefront of the contestation commonly referred to as Aragalaya (the fight).

When rulers live in such luxury, they have no idea how commoners are doing, Sri Sumeda, a monk who has traveled 50 km for his first visit to the palace.

“It shows what can be done when people decide to exercise their power.

—Sri Sumeda, Sri Lankan Monk

Sri Lanka is plunged into an unprecedented economic crisis marked by hyperinflation and multiple shortages, particularly of food, fuel and medicine.

The Prime Minister's residence was set on fire in the evening, and three suspects were arrested on Sunday, according to the police.

Sri Lankan protesters set fire to the private residence of the first minister, a few hours after chasing the president from his home.

The demonstrators occupy not only the presidential palace but also that of the prime minister, and the offices of these two leaders.

Protesters rest on sofas in the living room of the Prime Minister's official residence.

Outside, some had taken advantage of the swimming pool on Saturday, and on Sunday in the park of this former residence of the governor of Ceylon at the time of British colonization, as in that of the residence of the Prime Minister, families were picnicking everywhere, and temporary kitchens had even popped up here and there.

Some demonstrators ventured into the presidential swimming pool during the invasion of the palace.

Buddhika Gunatillaka, 46, came by motorbike from a suburb of Colombo to experience the place, an area where ordinary mortals would not normally venture.

I used gas that I had saved to make the trip with my wife, because we will never have the opportunity again to visit Sri Lanka's main residence, he told AFP.

Here and there, traces of the fight to enter the previous day persist.

Two police water cannons lie abandoned on the short stretch of road that leads to the palace. Bullets, fired by security forces to discourage protesters, left holes in a perimeter wall.

In the offices of the presidency, nearby, where protesters smashed the wrought iron fences, a makeshift library sits in the main entrance.

I have been to the protesters' encampment every day and will not stop until Gotabaya is actually gone, says Chamari Wickremasinghe, 49.

She participates in the occupation of the offices of the presidency which housed the Parliament until 1982. We are not going to leave here, she adds, the promise to leave on July 13 is not enough. He must go now.

On the 35 steps leading to the building overlooking the Indian Ocean, families are resting. Volunteers offer food to demonstrators and security forces alike.

A student chants anti-Rajapaksa slogans to warm up the growing crowd despite the shortage of fuel has been immobilizing public transport for many days.

I hope that what happened on Saturday will serve as a lesson to future politicians, remarks Mr. Gunatillaka. You can't oppress people forever. They counterattack.

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