Sri Lanka, which is battling its worst economic crisis in seven decades, saw President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fleeing his official residence on Friday ahead of Saturday’s protests during which agitators stormed his house and demanded his resignation.
The island nation, which is home to 22 million people, has suffered months of lengthy blackouts, acute food and fuel shortages and galloping inflation in its most painful economic meltdown.
Protesters have been demanding for months the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, blaming the government for mismanaging the country’s finances and failing to tide over the crisis.
A look back at how the crisis has unfolded:
April 1: State of emergency
Rajapaksa declared a temporary state of emergency, giving the country’s police sweeping powers to arrest and detain suspects at free will, after a series of protests.
April 3: Cabinet resigns
Almost all cabinet ministers decided to resign en masse at a late-night meeting, leaving Rajapaksa and his brother Mahinda — who was then the prime minister — isolated.
The governor of the central bank, who refrained from seeking help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), announced his resignation a day later – April 4.
April 5: President loses majority
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s crisis deepened as finance minister Ali Sabry resigned a day after he was appointed. The embattled President also loses his parliamentary majority as former allies urge him to quit. The state of emergency was then lifted.
April 10: Medicine shortages
Sri Lanka’s doctors say the country is almost out of life-saving medicines and warned that the crisis could end up killing more people than the Covid-19 pandemic.
April 12: Foreign debt default
The government announces it is defaulting on its foreign debt of $51 billion as a “last resort” after running out of foreign exchange to import desperately needed goods.
April 19: First casualty
Police kill a protester, the first casualty of several weeks of anti-government protests. The next day the IMF says it has asked Sri Lanka to restructure its colossal external debt before a rescue package can be agreed upon.
May 9: Day of violence
A mob of government loyalists bussed in from the countryside attacked peaceful protesters camped outside the president’s seafront office in Colombo.
Nine people are killed and hundreds more injured in the reprisal attacks that follow, with crowds targeting those responsible for the violence and setting fire to the homes of lawmakers.
Mahinda Rajapaksa resigns as prime minister, and has to be rescued by troops after thousands of protesters storm his residence in Colombo.
He is replaced by Ranil Wickremesinghe, a political veteran who had already served several terms as premier.
May 10: Shoot-to-kill orders
The defence ministry orders troops to shoot on sight anyone involved in looting or “causing harm to life”. But protesters defy a fresh government curfew, which is rolled back at the end of the week. The top police officer in Colombo is assaulted and his vehicle is set ablaze.
June 10: ‘Humanitarian emergency’
The United Nations warns that Sri Lanka is facing a dire humanitarian crisis, with millions already in need of aid.
More than three-quarters of the population had reduced their food intake due to the country’s severe food shortages, the UN says.
June 27: Fuel sales suspended
The government says Sri Lanka is nearly out of fuel and halts all petrol sales except for essential services.
July 1: New inflation record
The government publishes data showing inflation has hit a record high for the ninth consecutive month, a day after the IMF asks Sri Lanka to rein in high prices and galloping inflation.
July 9: President’s home stormed
President Rajapaksa flees his official residence in Colombo with the assistance of troops, shortly before demonstrators storm the compound, and he is taken to an undisclosed location. Footage from inside the residence shows jubilant protesters jumping in the pool and exploring its stately bedrooms.