After managing to enter the presidential palace, and forcing Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee, the culmination of several months of social discontent, Sri Lankans spent a good deal of time inside the ‘building’ compound.
Dozens of men took off their shirts and pigeonholed into the pool, some winning. Others are relaxing on a neatly mowed lawn, yet others are running straight to the president’s private apartment.
“We’re in Gotabaya’s room, here’s the underwear he left behind,” a young man said in a live video widely shared on social networks, showing off black underpants. “He even left his shoes behind.”
Hats off to the protesters who blamed him for months of deep economic crisis in Sri Lanka, the president thanked the soldiers who fired in the air for allowing him to escape.
In turn, protesters are seated on her large bed, or on the comfy sofa in the living room. Some helped themselves to the pantry, scattering snacks and drinks here and there.
“I was shocked to see that an air conditioner in his bathroom was working. Since we are facing endless power cuts,” a man who entered the palace told AFP by telephone.
“We shouldn’t be thieves”
The festive atmosphere was in contrast to the tense confrontation that took place earlier in the day between hundreds of thousands of protesters and security forces.
Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the attackers. But some, by seizing police trucks, were able to force barriers and climb over high gates.
Once the palace was finished, the number of police and military guards was reduced. Elite police officers remained stationed at the residence, but without removing the intruders who had gone there comfortably.
Climbing a gate, a student urged the crowd not to rob or vandalize the state residence, which houses a collection of priceless artifacts.
“We called Gota a thief and pushed him to run away, please don’t take anything from the palace,” he demanded. “We should not be thieves like Rajapaksa”.
For months, many Sri Lankans have been demanding the resignation of the president and several members of his ruling family, due to repeated shortages of food, electricity, fuel and medicine.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa had been staying at the official residence, usually reserved for welcoming foreign leaders, only since last April, as thousands of protesters tried to invade his private home in a massive demonstration.
His home was not invaded, but he had moved into the palace in the vain hope of eventually being safe there.
He remains president, a defense ministry source told AFP, guarded by the military at an undisclosed location.
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