Thousands of people on Saturday held protests in Colombo calling for the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa amid an unprecedented economic crisis in Sri Lanka, Al Jazeera reported.

A large number of protestors gathered at the Galle Face Green park in the capital, shouting slogans of “madman Gota” and “Go home Gota”, in a reference to the Sri Lankan president. Many people said they were taking part in protests for the first time.

Demonstrators also marched towards the Presidential Secretariat, shouting slogans calling for the resignation of Rajapaksa. Some of them held placards calling the Rajapaksa family as “thieves” and asking them to “go home”.

Protestors take part in a demonstration against the economic crisis in Colombo on Saturday.
A protestor wearing a mask of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa performs during a protest in front of the Presidential Secretariat.

On Wednesday, Rajapaksa announced a three-member advisory group to help the government in the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund.

The government’s chief whip Johnston Fernando informed the country’s Parliament that the president will not resign under any circumstances.

Police officials watch protesters during a demonstration against the economic crisis at the entrance of the president's office in Colombo.

Sri Lanka is currently mired in public debt, leading to its worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948. With the country’s foreign currency reserves dwindling, Sri Lankans are facing shortages of medicines, milk powder, cooking gas, kerosene and other essential items.

A lawyer, Charini, said that the protestors are seeking to show that they are together and that corruption could not go on, The Indian Express reported. “First he has to go, then all the Rajapaksas must go, and then the country can breathe easy,” she said.

Muslim protestors break their fast during protests in Colombo.

An elderly woman said that she was taking part in the protests as the future of her children was in question, The Hindu reported. “What do we even have in this country to give us hope?” she asked. “This is enough. The Rajapaksas must go.”

The Rajapaksa family has dominated Sri Lankan politics for two decades. Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa are third-generation politicians. The family currently holds charge of 11 ministries.

During Mahinda Rajapaksa’s second presidential term (2010-15), as many as 40 members of the family were said to be on government posts, apart from the Cabinet, according to The Indian Express.

Catholic sisters take part in a demonstration against the economic crisis in Colombo.