Sri Lanka’s president has said the country is facing the “worst crisis in its history” as it deals with an economic emergency that’s sparked a wave of violence.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa promised to appoint a new prime minister, give more of his power to parliament and look at scrapping the presidential system.
It comes after an MP was killed in a stand-off with protesters and the homes of other politicians set on fire in violence across the country on Monday.
It started after pro-government mobs attacked protesters who were calling for President Rajapaksa and his brother, the prime minister, to resign.
Nine people, including the MP, were beaten to death and about 300 hospitalised, said the president in a televised speech on Wednesday.
He said there was also looting and organised rioting across Sri Lanka – which is under a strict nationwide curfew and state of emergency.
“The series of murders, assaults, intimidation and destruction of property that followed cannot be justified,” said President Rajapaksa, as he urged people to refrain from “sabotage”.
His brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, resigned as prime minister in the wake of the violence.
On Wednesday, armoured vehicles and troops were in streets of the capital Colombo and have been ordered to shoot people involved in any violence.
Sporadic acts of arson and vandalism have been continuing.
The president said he would work with all party leaders as he assembles a new government and appoints a new PM to stop the country “falling into anarchy”.
He said the constitution would also be amended to empower parliament, and that when the situation stabilises there would be an opportunity to discuss scrapping the presidential system.
Sri Lanka’s crippling debt is at the heart of the crisis.
Many people are angry at the government’s handling of the situation, which has led to prolonged power cuts as well as severe shortages of essentials such as food, fuel and medicine.
The country is close to bankruptcy and has suspended $7bn in foreign loans payments this year out of $25bn due by 2026.