Day of Reckoning

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In a historic turn of events, tens of thousands of people occupied the Presidential secretariat, the President’s House in Fort and the Temple Trees on Saturday (9), following a mass scale protest which they called ‘the final battle’ to oust President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government.

A mass scale protest had been organised on Saturday (9) as it was the third-month anniversary of the anti-government protesters occupying Galle Face Green near the Presidential Secretariat and establishing a model village named ‘GotaGoGama.’

Although the public was suffering from the fuel crisis and food crisis, many arrived in Colombo in the morning of Saturday sacrificing the last drops of fuel in their vehicles. Many came on foot while people from distant areas managed to get there on time by train. They headed to Colombo by various modest of transport, braving the fuel crisis, demanding President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation. A container vehicle on the road was also seen bringing a group of protesters.

To disperse the crowd gathered in Fort, the Police started to fire tear gas and water cannon after 9.00 a.m. However, it did not stop the sea of people from joining the protest.

The Armed forces fired live ammunition at the people who gathered near the President’s House.

Dozens of protestors sustained injuries due to the attacks by the Police and the Armed Forces.

A person was seen beaten mercilessly, by Police officers using poles and batons, when he crossed the barricade in front of the President’s House. This prompted the thousands of the people to break through the barriers and occupy the President’s House. The protesters also broke the human shields of Police and Armed Forces and the iron barricades.

Amidst heavy attack of tear gas and water cannon in the surrounding area, the protesters managed to clear the path towards the President’s House and the Presidential Secretariat.

All the roads surrounding the area were seen as a sea of people. They did not back off and marched forward together, helping those who came under tear gas attacks.

The constructions sites and several hotels offered water to the protesters who were temporary backing off after coming under tear gas attacks. Some hotels offered food to the people who ran into the hotel premises to find shelter.

At the end, when the hundreds of thousands of people marched forward, the Police and Armed Forces stepped backwards.

The protesters then occupied both the President’s House and the Presidential Secretariat.

Inside the buildings, the people were seen laughing and hugging each other. They were seen inspecting the rooms, kitchen and halls of the President’s House.

One of the protesters started to play the Piano and the crowd started to sing the President’s election campaign song, ‘Vishwayapura Vihindi Giya Podu Jana Jana Rawe.’

Some of them were resting on comfortable sofas. Many of them were taking photos and selfies. A group of people then started to take a bath in the pool at President’s House.

In the conference room, a group started to have a mock IMF discussion. A foreigner also joined them pretending that he was a representative of the IMF. He also shouted ‘Go Home Gota’ along with the crowd.

In the evening, the protesters also occupied the Temple Trees and were seen using the gym in the premises.

(Pix by Amitha Thennakoon and Sajeewa Chinthaka Kahandagamage)

By Methmalie Dissanayake