“We are peacefully withdrawing from the presidential palace, the presidential secretariat and the prime minister’s offices with immediate effect, but we will continue our struggle,” a spokeswoman for the protesters said.

Hours before the withdrawal was announced, police pushed back protesters trying to enter parliament.

The protesting crowd invaded the offices of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Wednesday after doing the same on Saturday with the palace of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, forcing him to flee abroad.

Nearly 85 people were injured in the clashes and one man died of tear gas suffocation.

Mr. Wickremesinghe, appointed interim president by the fleeing head of state, had asked for the evacuation of public buildings and had ordered the police to do “what is necessary to restore order”.

A Buddhist dignitary supporting the movement had for his part called on Thursday to return the presidential palace, a building over 200 years old, in order to preserve the valuables therein.

“This building is a national treasure and it must be protected,” monk Omalpe Sobitha told reporters. “There must be proper auditing and ownership must be returned to the state.”

Hundreds of thousands of people have visited the residence since it opened to the public after Mr Rajapaksa fled on Saturday.

In a televised address on Wednesday, the prime minister said protesters occupying his office “want to prevent me from carrying out my responsibilities as interim president.”

– Luxurious hotel –

“We cannot allow the fascists to take power. We must put an end to this fascist threat to democracy,” he added.

The curfew, lifted Thursday at dawn, was reinstated for midday, in Colombo only.

Mr. Rajapaksa had promised to resign on Wednesday but no announcement was made.

After a day’s stopover in the Maldives, he left for Singapore on Thursday, with his wife Ioma and two bodyguards, on board a Saudia commercial flight. They were escorted onto the plane a few minutes before takeoff.

The head of state, according to the local press, initially demanded a private jet, refusing to take a commercial flight with other passengers because of the hostile reception he received when he arrived in the Maldives on Wednesday .

He had been jeered at and insulted as he left Velana airport and a protest was held in the capital Malé to demand that the Maldivian government not allow him to pass through safely.

The Maldivian media report that Mr. Rajapaksa spent the night in the luxury hotel Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi, and draw a parallel between this opulence and the economic crisis that the Sri Lankan population is going through, the worst in its history.

According to security sources, Mr Rajapaksa’s resignation could be announced on Thursday, now that he has left the Maldives.

“The resignation letter has been prepared,” the source told AFP, “as soon as he gives the green light, the Speaker of Parliament will publish it.”

According to diplomatic sources, the United States denied him a visa application because he had renounced his American citizenship in 2019 before being a presidential candidate.