Protesters Enter Sri Lankan President’s Home as Crisis Escalates

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Protesters in Sri Lanka entered the president’s residence and his office on Saturday, as thousands descended on the capital, Colombo, to register their growing fury over his government’s inability to address a crippling economic crisis.

The protesters are demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, whose family has dominated politics in Sri Lanka for much of the past two decades, accusing him of running the island nation’s economy into the ground. Sri Lanka has run out of foreign exchange reserves for imports of essential items like fuel, food and medicine.

In some parts of the city, the police used tear gas and water cannons against protesters, and fired shots into the air to try to disperse them. Local news media showed footage of protesters breaching parts of the presidential residence as well as his secretariat, a separate building that houses his office. Videos on social media showed protesters jumping into the pool in Mr. Rajapaksa’s residence.

The whereabouts of Mr. Rajapaksa were not clear. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who took office only in May and is also facing calls to resign, called for an emergency meeting of the leaders of political parties.

Protests have been taking place for months, but the demonstration on Saturday appeared to be one of the biggest yet, even though the authorities had imposed an overnight curfew and halted trains in an attempt to stop people from reaching the capital.

On Friday, the United Nations urged the “Sri Lankan authorities to show restraint in the policing of assemblies and ensure every necessary effort to prevent violence.”

Mr. Rajapaksa has defied intensifying calls for his departure, even as public pressure over the past five months has forced several members of his family, including his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was the prime minister, to resign.

Sri Lanka has repeatedly run out of fuel in recent months, with citizens lining up at gas stations, often in vain. Local news media have reported the deaths of at least 15 people in fuel lines, from heatstroke and other causes, since the beginning of the crisis.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Skandha Gunasekara reported from Colombo, and Mujib Mashal from New Delhi.

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