Earlier, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he is willing to resign and make way for an all-party government to take over.
1:04 p.m. ET, July 9, 2022
TV station says journalists were attacked by police during protests outside Sri Lankan prime minister's home
From Rukshana Rizwie in Colombo and Maija Ehlinger in Atlanta
A Sri Lankan television station said six of its journalists were attacked late Saturday by the Sri Lanka Police Special Task Force outside the Sri Lankan prime minister's private residence amid protests calling for the president to resign.
Two of the journalists from the Sri Lankan TV channel Newsfirst had their cameras rolling at the time. Video aired by Newsfirst showed two journalists being pushed to the ground by police during the confrontation. Fellow journalists who rushed to their aid were then also attacked, Newsfirst reported.
Inspector General of Sri Lanka Police C. D. Wickremaratne said the officers associated with the attacks have been "suspended immediately" in a statement aired on national television.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also issued a statement condemning the attacks, saying that "freedom of media is paramount to democracy in Sri Lanka."
The prime minister requested both security forces and protesters "act with restraint to prevent any violence and ensure the safety of the public."
Wickremesinghe earlier on Saturday said he was willing to resign and make way for an all-party government to take over. The prime minister's office also said protesters had broken into his private residence and set it on fire.
3:21 p.m. ET, July 9, 2022
Protesters set Sri Lankan prime minister's private residence on fire, his office says
From Iqbal Athas and Rukshana Rizwie in Colombo
Protesters have broken into the private residence of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and set it on fire, according to the prime minister's office.
Wickremesinghe was not in the residence at the time it was breached. He had been moved earlier to a safer location, his office said.
Live video streamed by local media and seen by CNN showed the residence engulfed in flames as crowds gathered at the scene.
The private residence on Fifth Lane in the commercial capital of Colombo is where the prime minister and his family reside. It is separate from the official residence, called Temple Trees.
Wickremesinghe earlier said he was willing to resign and make way for an all-party government to take over.
12:23 p.m. ET, July 9, 2022
How Sri Lanka's economy "completely collapsed"
From CNN's Rhea Mogul and Iqbal Athas
In June, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe — who now says he is willing to resign as protesters breached both his and the president's residences over the country's economic crisis — said Sri Lanka’s economy “completely collapsed.”
Sri Lanka is in the midst of its worst financial crisis in seven decades, after its foreign exchange reserves plummeted to record lows, with dollars running out to pay for essential imports including food, medicine and fuel.
The government recently took drastic measures to cope with the crisis, including implementing a four-day work week for public sector workers to allow them time to grow their own crops. However, the measures are doing little to ease the struggles faced by many in the country.
In several major cities, including the commercial capital, Colombo, hundreds continue to line up for hours to buy fuel, sometimes clashing with police and the military as they wait. Trains have reduced in frequency, forcing travelers to squeeze into compartments and even sit precariously on top of them as they commute to work.
Patients are unable to travel to hospitals due to the fuel shortage and food prices are soaring. Rice, a staple in the South Asian nation, has disappeared from shelves in many shops and supermarkets.
Wickremesinghe, who took office days after violent protests forced his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa to resign, appeared to place the blame for the country’s situation on the previous government in comments in June.
“It is no easy task to revive a country with a completely collapsed economy, especially one that is dangerously low on foreign reserves,” he said. “If steps had at least been taken to slow down the collapse of the economy at the beginning, we would not be facing this difficult situation today.”
Sri Lanka has mainly been relying on neighboring India to remain afloat – it has received $4 billion in credit lines – but Wickremesinghe said that too might not be enough.
The next step, he said, was to strike a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“This is our only option. We must take this path. Our aim is to hold discussions with the IMF and arrive at an agreement to obtain an additional credit facility,” Wickremesinghe said.
Some context: For the past decade, according to Murtaza Jafferjee, chair of Colombo-based think tank Advocata Institute, the Sri Lankan government had borrowed vast sums of money from foreign lenders and expanded public services. As the government’s borrowings grew, the economy took hits from major monsoons that hurt agricultural output in 2016 and 2017, followed by a constitutional crisis in 2018, and the deadly Easter bombings in 2019.
30% is misfortune. 70% is mismanagement,” he said.
In 2019, the newly elected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa slashed taxes in an attempt to stimulate the economy.
“They misdiagnosed the problem and felt that they had to give a fiscal stimulus through tax cuts,” Jafferjee said.
In 2020, the pandemic hit, bringing Sri Lanka’s tourist-dependent economy shuddering to a halt as the country shut its borders and imposed lockdowns and curfews. The government was left with a large deficit.
Shanta Devarajan, an international development professor at Georgetown University and former World Bank chief economist, says the tax cuts and economic malaise hit government revenue, prompting rating agencies to downgrade Sri Lanka’s credit rating to near default levels – meaning the country lost access to overseas markets.
Sri Lanka fell back on its foreign exchange reserves to pay off government debt, shrinking its reserves from $6.9 billion in 2018 to $2.2 billion this year, according to an IMF briefing.
The cash crunch impacted imports of fuel and other essentials and, in February, Sri Lanka imposed rolling power cuts to deal with the fuel crisis that had sent prices soaring, even before the global crunch that ensued as Russia launched an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
In May, the government floated the Sri Lankan rupee, effectively devaluing it by causing the currency to plunge against the US dollar.
Jafferjee described the government’s moves as a “series of blunder after blunder.”
CNN's Rukshana Rizwie and Julia Hollingsworth contributed reporting to this post.
10:52 a.m. ET, July 9, 2022
Sri Lankan prime minister reiterates willingness to resign
From Maija Ehlinger in Atlanta and Iqbal Athas in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe tweeted Saturday that he accepts the recommendation of party leaders to resign.
"To ensure the continuation of the Government including the safety of all citizens I accept the best recommendation of the Party Leaders today, to make way for an All-Party Government," Wickremesinghe tweeted.
"To facilitate this I will resign as Prime Minister," he said.
Wickremesinghe has not yet submitted his letter of resignation to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Some context: If both Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa resign, under the Sri Lankan constitution, the speaker of parliament will serve as acting president for a maximum of 30 days. Meanwhile, parliament will elect a new president within 30 days from one of its members who will hold the office for the remaining two years of the current term.
10:32 a.m. ET, July 9, 2022
Thousands of protesters surround stadium in Sri Lanka during cricket match against Australia
From CNN’s Sugam Pokharel in London
Thousands of anti-government demonstrators protested outside a stadium in Sri Lanka's southern coastal city of Galle during the country’s Test cricket match against Australia, the world’s No. 1 ranked team, on Saturday.
Local media showed videos of large crowds protesting against the government outside the Galle International Stadium, which is about a two-hour drive from Colombo. They waved Sri Lankan flags and carried banners with signs reading “Power to the people” and “GotaGoHome” — demanding President Gotabaya Rajapaksa step down over his handling of the country's dire economic crisis.
Many protesters then defied a police ban to march to the top of a fort overlooking the stadium grounds, where they continued to hold banners and chant their demands.
The protests didn't stop the play, however.
Australian cricket commentator Adam Collins, reporting from the stadium, described “extraordinary scenes in Galle.”
“Protesters in cranes, others on the back of trucks – it’s intense out there now, louder than ever and going nowhere,” he said on Twitter, describing what it looked like outside the stadium.
Amid economic turmoil and widespread protests in the island nation, the Australian cricket team arrived in Sri Lanka in the first week of June to play two Tests, five One Day Internationals (ODIs) and three Twenty20 International (T20Is) matches against the Lions.
“We've been following closely, it's something we've spoken about in our team meetings as well,” Australian captain Pat Cummins told reporters last week.
“We’re so lucky to come here and experience Sri Lanka pretty normally. We’re certainly seeing the effects, even in the buses seeing the queues kilometres long around petrol stations, so that’s really hit home for us. No matter what the result is, we’re in a really privileged position. There’s a lot of people making this happen for us to play a bit of cricket,” he added.
On Friday, Cummins tweeted, "Sri Lanka is facing its worst humanitarian crisis in decades," and shared a video where he sat down with two Sri Lankan locals to talk about their experience and what’s happening on the ground. He also shared a UNICEF link and asked people to support Sri Lankan children impacted by the economic crisis.
10:00 a.m. ET, July 9, 2022
At least 55 injured in protests, according to National Hospital of Sri Lanka doctor
From Iqbal Athas in Colombo, Sri Lanka
The number of people injured in Sri Lanka's protests has risen to 55, according to Dr. Pushpa Zoysa with the National Hospital of Sri Lanka, including three people who received gunshot wounds, she said.
Among those injured is a lawmaker from eastern Sri Lanka, she added.
Some background: Anger reached unprecedented levels in the South Asian nation of 22 million on Saturday, as more than 100,000 people amassed outside President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's residence, calling for his resignation.
Video broadcast on Sri Lankan television and on social media showed the protesters enter President's House — Rajapaksa's office and residence in the commercial capital — after breaking through security cordons placed by police. Images show demonstrators inside the building and hanging banners from the balcony, as well as swimming in the residence's pool.
Rajapaksa is not at the site and has been moved elsewhere, security officials told CNN. It is unclear how many security personnel are present at the location.
Protesters then also breached Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's official residence, known as Temple Trees, according to local media reports, while video of protesters entering the gates to Wickremesinghe's residence circulated on social media on Saturday.
9:42 a.m. ET, July 9, 2022
Sri Lankan prime minister says he is willing to resign
From Rukshana Rizwie and Iqbal Athas in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said he is willing to resign and make way for an all-party government to take over, the prime minister's office said Saturday.
The statement comes after a meeting of party leaders, held by Sri Lanka's parliament speaker, agreed to ask both the president and prime minister to resign per an "overwhelming request," Sri Lankan MP Rauff Hakeem tweeted on Saturday.
The prime minister's office said: "So as to ensure safety of the citizens, he is agreeable to this recommendation by the opposition party leaders."
The decision also comes as fuel distribution is due to recommence this week, when the World Food Programme Director is also set to visit the country, and ahead of a debt sustainability report for the International Monetary Fund, the prime minister's office added.
9:41 a.m. ET, July 9, 2022
Protesters breach official residence of Sri Lankan Prime Minister
From Rukshana Rizwie in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Protesters have breached the official residence of Sri Lanka's Prime Minister, known as Temple Trees, according to local media.
Video of protesters entering the gates to the residence of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe circulated on social media on Saturday.
Wickremesinghe had been earlier moved to a secure location, his office confirmed.
Some background: Protesters have also broken into the Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's official residence in Colombo. Video broadcast on Sri Lankan television and on social media showed protesters enter President's House -- Rajapaksa's office and residence in the commercial capital -- after breaking through security cordons placed by police.
Images show demonstrators inside the building and hanging banners from the balcony, as well as swimming in the residence's pool.