At least 1,000 artefacts, including items of vintage and antique value, have gone missing from Sri Lanka’s Presidential Palace and Prime Minister’s official residence, both of which were stormed by anti-government protesters earlier this month, police have said.
The numbers, however, are based on initial investigations, and it will be extremely difficult for police to deduce the exact number of items that have gone missing as the Sri Lankan Department of Archaeology does not have a record of the antiques and artefacts kept at the Presidential Palace, despite the building being gazetted as a place of archaeological importance, web portal Colombo Page reported, quoting police sources.
Special teams have been formed to begin an inquiry, the report added.
On July 9, demonstrators agitating against the government’s handling of the island nation’s unprecedented economic crisis stormed the two buildings, both of which are located in the country’s largest city of Colombo, and occupied them.
Protesters squarely blame then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his family – many of whom were government ministers before stepping down amid widespread anger – for the crisis. Their ire was also directed at then PM and now President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who they see as an ally and proxy of the Rajapaksas.
On July 13, Rajapaksa fled to Maldives and resigned, prompting Wickremesinghe to take over as interim President. On July 20, the 73-year-old leader was elected by Parliamentarians as the nation’s President. Two days later, he appointed Dinesh Gunawardena as the prime minister.
(With PTI inputs)