Sri Lanka's anti-government protesters announced on Thursday they would be ending their protests against government buildings, vowing to keep going with their campaign to overthrow the prime minister and the president in the midst of a severe economic crisis.
Protesters engulfed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's palace on Saturday which forced him to leave for the Maldives on Wednesday. On Wednesday, protesters also seized the office of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Rajapaksa had said he would resign on Wednesday, however, there was no confirmation of his resignation.
The premier, who Rajapaksa proclaimed as acting president during his absence, demanded the evacuation of the state building and directed security forces to take "what is necessary to restore order".
"We are peacefully withdrawing from the Presidential Palace, the Presidential Secretariat, and the Prime Minister's Office with immediate effect, but will continue our struggle," an official spokesperson for the protesters stated.
A prominent Buddhist monk who is a supporter of the campaign earlier had demanded that the more than 200-year-old presidential palace be returned to the authorities to ensure that its precious art and treasures are kept.
"This building is a national treasure and it should be protected," monk Omalpe Sobitha told reporters. "There must be a proper audit and the property given back to the state."
Hundreds of thousands of people have been to the site since it was open to the public following Rajapaksa's escape and his security forces backed down.
After hundreds of people seized their office of his in Colombo, Wickremesinghe declared: "Those who visit my office are trying to prevent me from carrying out my duties to act as president.
"We can't allow fascists to take over. That is why I declared a nationwide emergency and a curfew," the president added.
It was officially lifted around dawn on Thursday. However, police claimed that a soldier, as well as an officer, was hurt in the overnight battles between protesters in front of the parliament.
The attack to take on the legislature was defeated back, unlike other places where protesters scored a spectacular victory.
The principal hospital in Colombo has reported that about 85 patients were admitted for injuries on Wednesday. One man was dying of a heart attack following a tear-gas attack at the offices of the premier.
Rajapaksa was still at his home in the Maldives the day before, according to reports, waiting for a private plane that could take him along with his wife Ioma with two bodyguards in Singapore.
Local media reports claimed that he was not allowed to board commercial flights together with fellow passengers following the same hostile reception upon arriving. reached the Maldives early on Wednesday.
He was mocked and insults were hurled at him as he walked out of the airport while another group held protests in Maldivia's capital in the afternoon, calling on Maldivian authorities to not allow the passage of the man.
Maldivian media stated that he was staying over the course of the evening at Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi super luxury resort.
They compared the lavish accommodations with the dire economic situation of his fellow countrymen -- with four of five Sri Lankans avoiding meals due to the nation's severe economic crisis.
Security officials in Colombo confirmed that Rajapaksa was likely to depart the Maldives on Thursday, and the resignation announcement could come once his flight.
"The resignation letter has been prepared," the source said to AFP. "No sooner he gives the green light, the Speaker will issue it."
The sources in the diplomatic world said Rajapaksa's attempt to get a visa to the United States had been turned down as he had already renounced his US citizenship in the year 2019 prior to running for the presidency.