Sri Lankan protesters, who are occupying President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's residence in the capital Colombo, say they will won't leave the premises until Rajapaksa actually leaves the office.

Protesters storm the colonial-era presidential palace a day earlier.
Protesters storm the colonial-era presidential palace a day earlier. (Reuters)

Sri Lankan protesters have refused to budge from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's residence, a day after they stormed his home, forcing him to flee with the navy and announce he would resign.

"Our struggle is not over," student leader Lahiru Weerasekara told reporters on Sunday, the day after Rajapaksa, currently taking refuge on a vessel offshore, said he would step down on Wednesday.

"We won't give up this struggle until he actually leaves."

The dramatic events on Saturday were the culmination of months of protests by people enraged by the South Asian island nation's unprecedented economic crisis and corruption.

Hundreds of thousands massed in Colombo demanding Rajapaksa take responsibility for shortages of medicines, food and fuel that have brought the once-relatively rich economy to its knees and caused misery for ordinary people.

After storming the gates of the colonial-era presidential palace, protesters lounged in its opulent rooms, somersaulting into the compound's pool and rummaging through Rajapaksa's clothes.

At a clock tower near the palace, activists hung an effigy of Rajapaksa on Sunday evening as thousands of onlookers cheered.

The streets leading to the palace were choked with people, some carrying toddlers and wheeling along the elderly.

Troops had fired in the air to help Rajapaksa escape on Saturday. The president then boarded a naval craft which steamed to the safety of the island's southern waters.

READ MORE: Calm in Sri Lanka's capital as opposition hopes to install new government

Free-for-all

On Sunday, the presidential palace was a free-for-all, with children and parents plonking on a grand piano, admiring the expensive artwork, picnicking and taking it in turns to sit in the president's chair.

"When leaders live in such luxury, they have no idea how the commoners manage," Buddhist monk Sri Sumeda said.

"This shows what can be done when people decide to exercise their power."

Rajapaksa's nearby seafront office was also overrun on Saturday, and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's residence was set on fire even after he too offered to resign.

Police said they arrested three men in connection with the arson attack at the premier's home.

The bankrupt government has defaulted on its $51 billion external debt and is seeking an International Monetary Fund bailout.

The IMF said on Sunday that it hopes for "a resolution of the current situation that will allow for resumption of our dialogue".

READ MORE: Sri Lanka president agrees to 'step down', PM's home set afire in protests

Source: TRTWorld and agencies