Many Sri Lankans flee the capital as political leaders meet to seek a solution to the crisis

COLOMBO: Scores of Sri Lankans thronged buses from Colombo’s main city on Thursday to return to their hometowns with political party leaders due to meet after the prime minister resigned and went into hiding and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa warned against lawlessness.
Hundreds of people swarmed the commercial capital’s main bus station after authorities lifted an indefinite curfew at 7am (0130 GMT). The curfew will be reimposed at 2 p.m.
The island nation, grappling with its worst economic crisis since independence, was plagued by violence earlier this week after supporters of former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president’s elder brother, attacked a anti-government protest camp in the commercial capital Colombo.
Days of violent reprisals against government figures aligned with the powerful Rajapaksa clan followed. A total of 9 people were killed and more than 300 injured in the clashes, police said.
Protesters sprayed graffiti on the home of Mahinda Rajapaksa in a southern town and ransacked a museum dedicated to her father. They vowed to continue the protests until the president also resigns.
Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned after the fighting started and is hiding in a military base in the northeast of the country. His brother said on Wednesday he would appoint a new prime minister and cabinet this week “to prevent the country from descending into anarchy as well as to maintain government business that has been shut down.”
The streets of Colombo’s main city remained calm on Thursday, with some people venturing out to buy essential supplies.
Later in the day, political party leaders were due to meet the speaker of the country’s parliament to discuss the current situation.
President Rajapaksa has repeatedly called for a unity government to find a way out of the crisis, but opposition leaders say they will not serve until he resigns over his stewardship of the crisis.
Hit hard by the pandemic, rising oil prices and tax cuts by the populist Rajapaksa government, the island nation is experiencing its worst financial crisis since its independence in 1948.
Usable foreign exchange reserves are no more than $50 million, inflation is rampant and fuel shortages have taken thousands to the streets amid more than a month of anti-government protests, which had remained mostly peaceful until see you Monday.
Sri Lanka’s central bank governor said on Wednesday that failure to find a solution to the crisis within the next one to two weeks would lead to power cuts of up to 10 to 12 hours a day, as well than his own resignation.