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Pool party to celebrate storming of Sri Lanka's presidential palace

Protestors demanding the resignation of Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa swim in a pool inside the compound of Sri Lanka's Presidential Palace in Colombo on July 9, 2022. Sri Lanka's beleaguer
Protestors demanding the resignation of Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa swim in a pool inside the compound of Sri Lanka's Presidential Palace in Colombo on July 9, 2022. Sri Lanka's beleaguered President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled his official residence in Colombo. (Photo: AFP)
COLOMBO — After months of angry demands for Sri Lanka's president to stand down, protesters laughed, took selfies, and treated themselves to a swim as they suddenly found themselves inside his home.اضافة اعلان

Hundreds of people in Colombo overrun the presidential palace on Saturday, capping months of public discontent over the island nation's crippling economic crisis. 

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had fled just moments earlier, assisted by troops who fired into the air to clear his escape. 

Once he had left, the mood inside the compound was festive, as the crowd set aside the frustrations of long-running food and fuel shortages and a tense confrontation with security forces earlier in the day. 

"We are in Gotabaya's room, this is the underwear he left behind," one young man said while holding up black briefs on a live video shared on multiple social media channels. 

"He has left his shoes behind too."

On the compound grounds, dozens of men shed their shirts. They jumped into the presidential pool, with some doing somersaults and frolicking in the water.

Hundreds of others sat down on carefully manicured lawns for a break from the morning's confrontation with police officers, who had fired barrages of tear gas and water cannon at demonstrators. 

The crowd had worked their way into the compound after dismantling barricades and scaling its high gates with the help of a captured police truck.

As the protesters surged forwards, the police officers and army troops guarding the residence melted away.

Elite police officers remained inside but did not attempt to remove the intruders roaming leisurely through the mansion.

Some of the crowd lounged on Rajapaksa's king-size bed and the comfortable sofas. 

Protesters also helped themselves to the presidential pantry, with snacks and soft drinks seen spread out on countertops. 

"It surprised me to see that an air conditioner was working in his bathroom. We have to put up with endless blackouts," a man who entered the palace told AFP by telephone.

We should not be thieves
As they marched in, a university student climbed a gate post and loudly urged the throng not to vandalize or loot the state residence, which is home to a repository of priceless artifacts. 

"We called Gota a thief and got him out. Please do not remove anything from the palace," he said. 

"We should not be thieves like the Rajapaksas." 

The presidential palace was formerly known as the "Queen's House." It was the official residence of British governors until Sri Lanka won independence in 1948. 

Since then, it has been the official residence of Sri Lanka's heads of state — but many past leaders have believed it to be haunted. 

Only one president had lived there briefly in recent years, while all others had used it only to receive visiting dignitaries. 

Rajapaksa moved there in April, soon after thousands of protesters attempted to invade his private home during a major demonstration. 

That residence was not overrun, but he moved to the presidential palace in the ultimately futile hope that it would be safer.


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