Sri Lanka's opposition demands President resign

Sri Lanka's opposition demands President resign

Sri Lanka's fractious opposition showed rare unity Sunday, joining to demand President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resign over the country's worst-ever economic crisis.

The main opposition party, Samagi Jana Balawegaya SJB, staged a mass rally at Independence Square in Colombo, where speaker after speaker called for the ouster of Rajapaksa and his powerful ruling family.

The president has been barricaded in his official residence for over a month, according to former legislator Hirunika Premachandra. It is time for us to pull him out and kick him by his earlobe. The recent spate of long blackouts, skyrocketing inflation and acute shortages of food, fuel and pharmaceuticals have sparked a number of anti-Rajapaksa protests across the country.

Premachandra, who kicked off the wave of demonstrations by staging a sit-in outside the president's private home in mid-March, urged all parties to unite and topple the government.

The JVP, the country's main leftist party, held a rally outside a Colombo railway station, insisting that the government should step down and allow an early election.

Gota go home, go home Gota, chanted tens of thousands of JVP activists waving red flags.

Several minor opposition parties also showed up in Colombo and provincial capitals.

The president issued a statement asking all political parties to overcome the challenges they face while Gota's ruling SLPP coalition skipped its custom May Day rally. Instead of following up on who is responsible for the current situation, what we need to do is to focus on what action can be taken to provide immediate relief, Rajapaksa said.

Thousands of activists have laid siege on Rajapaksa's seafront office for the 23rd day, calling for his resignation.

The president told dissidents within his coalition government on Friday that he was willing to form a unity government, but he said neither he nor his brother Mahinda, the country's prime minister, would step down.