July 13 (BP) — Sri Lankan protesters on Wednesday stormed the offices of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who’s now the country’s acting leader, after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country.
The protesters called for Wickremesinghe and other leaders to resign in the hours after Rajapaksa fled without officially resigning, CNN reported. Before his departure Tuesday, Rajapaksa appointed Wickremesinghe acting president in accordance with Sri Lanka’s Constitution.
Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, the speaker of Parliament, said he expected Rajapaksa’s resignation letter late Wednesday after he reached the Maldives.
Demonstrators entered the prime minister’s offices in Colombo, clashing with police and leading to dozens of injuries. At least 30 people were hospitalized, some with tear gas inhalation and others with cuts and bruises, a nurse told CNN.
Wickremesinghe’s location was unknown.
In the wake of his appointment, Wickremesinghe implemented and canceled a state of emergency in the Western province, and put a curfew into effect. Protesters questioned his authority to do so, NBC News reported.
“Protesters are attempting to prevent the appointment of a new president,” Wickremesinghe said in an address. “This fascist threat must be removed.”
Abeywardena said Parliament is expected to convene Friday and elect a new president July 20.
Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Colombo in recent weeks over Rajapaksa’s handling of an economic crisis that left millions of residents struggling to afford essentials such as food, medicine and fuel.
Before fleeing the country, Rajapaksa was blocked from boarding a flight out of Sri Lanka at least twice on Monday after refusing to join a public immigration line at the Bandaranaike International Airport.
Daniel Uria contributed to this report.