As Sri Lanka’s leader agrees to step down, protesters sing on the streets. But the future is uncertain and the economy is wrecked

TOPSHOT - People crowd inside the Sri Lanka's presidential palace, in Colombo on July 10, 2022, a day after it was overrun by anti-government protestors. - Sri Lanka's colonial-era presidential palace has embodied state authority for more than 200 years, but on July 10 it was the island's new symbol of "people power" after its occupant fled. (Photo by Arun SANKAR / AFP) (Photo by ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Video shows protesters occupying Sri Lanka's presidential palace
02:11 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Sri Lanka woke on Sunday to an uncertain future, with both its President and Prime Minister set to step down after thousands of protesters stormed their homes in fury over the nation’s crippling economic crisis.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has agreed to resign on July 13, the speaker of the country’s parliament announced late Saturday, following a tumultuous day that saw protesters break into Rajapaksa’s official residence in Colombo and splash around in his swimming pool.

Protesters also targeted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, setting on fire his private residence on Fifth Lane, an affluent neighborhood in the capital. Wickremesinghe later said he was willing to resign “to make way for an all-party government.”

The announcements – which protesters celebrated by singing on the streets and setting off fireworks – marked a historic victory for the protesters, who have been demanding Rajapaksa’s resignation for months over his government’s failure to address the country’s economic collapse.

Four other ministers stepped down over the weekend.

Minister of Tourism and Land Harin Fernando, Minister of Labour and Foreign Employment Manusha Nanayakkara and Minister of Transport and Highways and co-spokesperson for the cabinet Bandula Gunawardena all resigned on Saturday, according to the ministers’ offices.

Minister of Investment Promotion Portfolio Dhammika Perera told CNN he resigned on Sunday.

The economic turmoil has plunged the Indian Ocean island nation of 22 million into a dire humanitarian crisis, leaving millions struggling to buy food, medicine and fuel.

After months of largely peaceful protests, anger reached tipping point on Saturday, as more than 100,000 people massed outside Rajapaksa’s residence, calling for his resignation.

Video broadcast on Sri Lankan television and on social media showed the protesters enter the President’s House – Rajapaksa’s office and residence – after breaking through security cordons. Images show demonstrators inside the whitewashed colonial-era building and hanging banners from the balcony.

Later on Saturday, live video streamed by local media and seen by CNN showed Wickremesinghe’s home engulfed in flames as crowds gathered around.

Neither the President nor Prime Minister were at their residences when the buildings were breached. Both had been moved to secure locations prior to the attacks, according to security officials.