Sri Lanka awaits confirmation of Rajapaksa’s resignation

Sri Lanka awaits confirmation of Rajapaksa’s resignation

Sri Lankans were waiting on Friday for confirmation of the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled his country after protesters invaded his residence and ended the occupation of public buildings in the capital Colombo.

Mr Rajapaksa announced his resignation from Singapore on Thursday, after fleeing his country on Wednesday.

The official announcement of the abandonment of his functions, expected on Friday, will only come after examination of the “authenticity and legality” of the letter announcing it, sent by email to the president of the Parliament, said to the AFP spokesman for the latter, Indunil Yapadu.

Mr. Rajapaksa had fled his residence on Saturday, stormed by demonstrators accusing him of his mismanagement at a time when Sri Lanka is going through the most serious economic crisis in its history.

He had managed to leave his country on Wednesday to go to the Maldives, from where he took a plane to Singapore on Thursday.

He would be the first head of state to step down since Sri Lanka opted for presidential rule in 1978.

– “A monumental victory” –

In the capital Colombo, placed under curfew, a small but jubilant crowd, some waving the national flag, danced and sang to express their joy in front of the secretariat of the presidency when the news was announced.

“This is a monumental victory,” cried Harinda Fonseka, one of the protesters. “But this is only a first step.”

Under the Sri Lankan Constitution, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, whose departure is also demanded by the protesters, would automatically become interim president until Parliament appoints a successor to Mr. Rajapaksa.

Witnesses saw dozens of people leaving the offices of the head of government on Thursday and the police entering them. Armored personnel carriers patrolled some neighborhoods.

“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 fight,” a spokeswoman for the protesters said earlier.

A few hours before the announcement of the withdrawal, the police had repelled those who tried to enter the parliament.

Sri Lankan soldiers stand guard in a street in Colombo on July 14, 2022 (AFP – Arun SANKAR)

The crowd had invaded the offices of the Prime Minister on Wednesday, after having done the same on Saturday with the palace of the Head of State.

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

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

Thursday afternoon, the doors of the building were closed and guarded by armed men.

The army and police received new orders on Thursday to firmly suppress any violence and warned troublemakers that they were “legitimately entitled to exercise force”.

Mr. Rajapaksa joined Singapore with his wife Ioma and their two bodyguards, on board a Saudia airline aircraft.

The head of state, according to the local press, initially demanded a private jet, refusing to fly with other passengers because of the hostile reception he received upon his arrival in the Maldives. Wednesday.

– Conspired and insulted –

He had been jeered at and insulted when he left the airport, and a demonstration against him had been organized in the capital Malé.

As president, Mr. Rajapaksa could not legally be arrested. It seems that he wanted to go abroad before resigning precisely to avoid a possible arrest.

Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed, who is believed to have played a behind-the-scenes role in helping him escape, said he feared he would be killed if he remained in Sri Lanka.

The plane carrying Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa arrives in Singapore on July 14, 2022 (AFP - Roslan RAHMAN)
The plane carrying Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa arrives in Singapore on July 14, 2022 (AFP – Roslan RAHMAN)

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

Singapore will not be its final destination, the city-state having specified that Mr. Rajapaksa was there on a private visit and that “he did not request asylum”.

Sources close to Sri Lankan security believe he will seek to stay in Singapore for some time before moving to the United Arab Emirates.

“He ruined our country with the Rajapaksa family, so we don’t trust him at all. We need a new government,” exclaimed Gihan Martyn, a 49-year-old trader, who called him a “cowardly”.


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