Sri Lanka prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has ordered military and police 'to do what is necessary to restore order' after fresh protests erupted in the crisis-hit island nation Wednesday.
In a televised statement broadcast after protesters stormed his office in Colombo, Wickremesinghe said they 'want to stop me from discharging my responsibilities as acting president'.
"We can't allow fascists to take over," the prime minister was quoted by news agency AFP.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, meanwhile, told parliament speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena he will submit his letter of resignation later today. The speaker appealed for calm while a new leadership structure is chosen. "I appeal to the public to have confidence in the parliamentary process... be peaceful."
Here are the top 10 points in the Sri Lanka crisis story:
> "I have ordered military commanders and the police chief to do what is necessary to restore order," the PM said, "We can't tear up our constitution. We must end this fascist threat to democracy." He also demanded that government buildings occupied by protesters be returned to state custody.
> As protests escalated sharply Wednesday, thousands stormed the prime minister's home and office in Colombo and occupied both buildings, raising the national flag to signal their capture. Police and troops failed to hold back crowds despite firing tear gas, multiple visuals showed. On Saturday - when Rajapaksa's residence was overrun - the PM's private home was set ablaze.
> Protesters hit out at their political leaders, calling Wickremesinghe a 'failed prime minister' and demanding that Rajapaksa be brought back from the Maldives to be held accountable. "PM and president were conspiring against the people. President promised to resign on July 13 but he didn't… you can see people are angry and frustrated… so they occupied PM's office."
> Earlier today Wickremesinghe declared a national emergency and imposed a curfew in some areas. He did so in his capacity as 'acting president', an official told Reuters, and after Rajapaksa fled to the Maldives. According to Reuters, both the emergency and curfew were cancelled shortly afterwards.
> Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa - nominated this week as a candidate to replace president Gotabaya Rajapaksa - criticised Wickremesinghe. He said only the president could take that call and the PM could only do so as acting president - a post he does not hold at this time since Rajapaksa has not quit.
> "PM becomes acting president only if the president appoints him as such, or if the office of president is vacant, or if the CJ (chief justice) in consultation with the Speaker forms the view that the president is unable to act," he said. "In the absence of any of these, the PM cannot exercise the powers of the president..."
> The emergency was announced shortly after thousands of protesters stormed the prime minister's Colombo home - in scenes eerily similar to the wave of angry Lankans that overran the president's home on Saturday. What sounded like gunshots - several of them - could be heard on another video.
> Since then at least two Lankan broadcasters - the state-run Independent Television Network (ITN) and Rupavahini- have gone off air. "Until the struggle is over, Sri Lanka Rupavahini Cooperation will only telecast programs of the Jana Aragalaya," a protester said during a live broadcast.
> Like Rajapaksa, Wickremesinghe had also promised to step down. However, the demand is that both resign and protesters have made it clear they will not countenance anything other than both quitting, Wickremesinghe being talked up as a potential president nominee is certain to further anger protesters.
> The troubled island nation - where a severe forex shortage has led to scarcity of food, fuel and other essentials - has been consumed by violent protests since early this year. Talks are on for a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), while India continues to offer credit for the purchase of essential goods.