On a patch of grass near Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office in capital Colombo, about two dozen tents have been erected in a small but growing camp that is becoming the focal point of national protests.
Thousands of people have taken to the streets across the country in recent days to call for Rajapaksa to step down, venting their anger at soaring inflation and lengthy power cuts caused by the spiralling economic crisis.
On a handwritten board next to the tents, not far from the colonial-era presidential building adjoining Colombo’s waterfront, stands the sign: “Gota-Go Village”.
The slogan “Gota go back,” also referring to Gotabaya, is being chanted at demonstrations sweeping Sri Lanka, in an unprecedented public outcry that has brought together people of different faiths, ethnicities and social groups.
Farzana F Haniffa, professor of sociology at the University of Colombo, said the protest site had become a space where all Sri Lankans could come together in a rare show of unity.
Some protesters said they would only leave if the Rajapaksa family stepped down. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in a televised address said the protests were hampering attempts to improve the situation.
“The country is in a crisis so you can’t stay at home,” said Mary Suwen, 27, a civil engineer.
“We need to pressure them,” she said, talking of the Rajapaksas. “They need to be accountable to the people.”