Sri Lanka: ITV News dispatch captures protesters storming PM's office

ITV News has an eyewitness report into the political crisis gripping Sri Lanka, with our team on the ground to witness protesters storming the offices of the country's prime minister

Sri Lanka’s anti-government protesters wakened to the news they’ve successfully driven out President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He left the country on a military jet this morning, forced to flee after his Presidential Palace was stormed and occupied by people fed up with a man they accuse of steering them into financial crisis. The country is now effectively bankrupt, low on fuel, and short of medicines. People have suffered months of hardship, queuing for up to five days just to get a drop of rationed petrol. Having removed their president, the people of Sri Lanka are now turning their attention to the prime minister.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa sings the national anthem of Sri Lanka during the country's Independence Day celebration in Colombo in February. Credit: AP

According to the constitution, the PM becomes acting president in Rajapaksa’s absence. But the protesters blame him just as much for their collapsed economy. The mood was different in Colombo today, though. Angrier. More confrontational. When the unarmed crowd tried to march into the PM’s office, heavily armed military and police stood in their way. One military commander came out to assure the crowd there would be no violence here today.

Protestors were hit with rounds of teargas by police as they tried to break through the gates. Credit: ITV News

We spoke to Brigadier Anil Soma Weera, and he assured us no tear gas would be used to disperse the crowd. He was wrong. No sooner than the first attempt was made to scale these gates - round after round was fired into the crowd. Our team in Colombo - Andy Rex, Sanjay Jha, and Prashanthan - were all caught in the spreading clouds of smoke while reporting. It came from all sides and there was no way to avoid it - attacking the lungs, and burning the eyes and skin.

Protesters helped us by offering water. Thankfully, none of the ITV News team was hurt. It was an attempt by the military to force the crowd to go home. It failed. The gate holding these people back gave way, and the soldiers just gave up trying to stop them. We went in with the victorious protesters, but there was no sign of the prime minister. He is now in hiding. The president has already fled the country. Sri Lanka is a country without any clear leadership now. Instead they have a revolution without weapons - and so far, people power is winning.

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