The houses of a Sri Lankan legislator and a former minister were set on fire this evening in the biggest clashes in weeks of anti-government protests in the island nation.
Former Minister Johnston Fernando’s residence in Mount Lavinia and the house of MP Sanath Nishantha were attacked by the protesters and set on fire. Footage from the scene showed plumes of smoke filling up the air.
Thousands took to the streets across the curfew-bound island on Monday and targeted supporters of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has subsequently tendered his resignation.
Rajapaksa resigned after a day of violence saw three people including an MP killed and over 150 wounded as government supporters armed with sticks and clubs attacked protestors. In a statement, his office said he was quitting in order to help form an interim, unity government, following weeks of sometimes violent protests across the country over shortages of fuel and other vital imports and spiraling prices.
Earlier in the day, scores of Rajapaksa loyalists attacked unarmed protesters camping outside the president’s office at the sea-front Galle Face promenade in downtown Colombo since April 9, news agency AFP reported.
The violence began after several thousand supporters of the prime minister, brought in buses from rural areas, poured out of his nearby official residence.
The supporters initially pulled down tents of protesters in front of the prime minister’s Temple Trees residence and torched anti-government banners and placards. They then marched to the nearby promenade and began destroying other tents set up by the “Gota go home” campaign that demands the president step down.
Police fired tear gas and water cannon and declared an immediate curfew in Colombo which was later widened to include the entire South Asian island nation of 22 million people.
(With AFP inputs)