the president of Sri Lanka Gotabaya Rajapaksa, resigned this Thursday from Singapore, where he had just arrived, while the protesters ended the occupation of public buildings in Colombo, although they assured that they will continue to press power in the midst of a serious economic and political crisis.
The resignation letter, sent by email to the president of Parliament, was transmitted to the country’s attorney general to examine the legal aspects before formally accepting it, said the spokesman for the parliamentary official, Indunil Yapa.
Rajapaksa, 73, had been given a deadline to resign from office until Wednesday.
If the resignation is accepted, he would become the first Sri Lankan president to resign since the presidential system of government was adopted in 1978. Gotabaya Rajapaksa landed in Singapore aboard a plane from the Saudi company Saudia, from Maldives, where he had fled the day before.
The city-state said Thursday that Rajapaksa entered “on a private visit” but “did not request asylum and was not granted asylum,” the Singapore Foreign Ministry said in a statement, recalling that the country “generally does not accept requests for asylum”.
As president, he enjoys immunity from arrest and there is speculation that he sought to go abroad before resigning to avoid arrest. In Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital, protesters left several state buildings that they had been occupying for several days, after Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe ordered security forces to restore order and declared a state of emergency.
“We will continue our fight”
“We are peacefully withdrawing from the Presidential Palace, the presidential secretariat and the prime minister’s office with immediate effect, but we will continue our fight,” a spokeswoman for the protesters said.
Witnesses saw dozens of activists leaving the prime minister’s office, as police and security forces entered the building. Armed officers patrolled parts of the city, under curfew.
According to security sources, Rajapaksa, who traveled with his wife Ioma and two bodyguards, will stay in Singapore for some time before heading to the United Arab Emirates. Sri Lanka, located south of India, suffers from shortages of essential products due to the lack of foreign exchange for imports and the protesters believe that the crisis is due to mismanagement by Rajapaksa.
After months of protests, protesters invaded the president’s official residence on Saturday and later seized the prime minister’s office. Since the president’s flight, the complex was opened to the public and thousands of people visited the building.
At the scene, Gihan Martyn, a 49-year-old shop owner, accused the president of “playing for time.”
“He’s a coward,” he said. “He ruined our country together with the Rajapaksa family. So we don’t trust him and we need a new government.” Police reported that a soldier and an officer were injured in clashes overnight outside Parliament.
Colombo’s main hospital said 85 people were admitted with injuries on Wednesday and one man suffocated to death after inhaling tear gas at the prime minister’s office. The army and the police received new orders on Thursday to crack down firmly on any kind of violence.
But Chirath Chathuranga Jayalath, a 26-year-old student, said he was not afraid: “You cannot stop these demonstrations by killing people. They will shoot us in the head, but we do this with our hearts,” he assured.
Local media in the Maldives reported that the president was greeted with hostility by passengers at the airport when he arrived on Wednesday. He was booed and insulted at Velana International Airport and a group organized a demonstration to ask the Maldivian authorities not to allow his presence.
The archipelago media reported that he spent the night at the Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi, an ultra-luxury hotel in this exclusive tourist destination. This opulence contrasts with the harsh crisis that his compatriots are experiencing at a time when four out of five people in the country must skip a meal due to the catastrophic economic situation. The country declared a $51 billion debt moratorium in April and is in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.