Colombo (Sri Lanka): Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has submitted his resignation letter, two government sources said on Friday, after he fled to Singapore after massive protests over his country’s economic slowdown. Two sources said Rajapaksa emailed a letter of resignation to the speaker of the country’s parliament late on Thursday. Sources said it was not immediately clear whether the letter sent soon after Rajapaksa’s arrival in Singapore would be accepted as an email. In the commercial capital Colombo, soldiers patrol the streets to enforce a curfew.
Rajapaksa, who fled to the Maldives on Wednesday to escape a popular revolt over his family’s role in a severe economic crisis, flew to Singapore on a Saudi Arabian airline flight, according to a person familiar with the situation. A passenger on the plane told Reuters on condition of anonymity that Rajapaksa was met by a group of security guards and was seen leaving the VIP area of the airport in a convoy of black vehicles.
Airline staff on the flight told Reuters that the black-clad president flew business class with his wife and two bodyguards, describing them as “quiet” and “friendly”. Singapore’s foreign ministry said Rajapaksa had come to the country on a personal visit and had neither sought nor granted asylum.
His decision to make his ally Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe acting president on Wednesday triggered further protests, with protesters storming parliament and the premier’s office and demanding that he step down as well. “We want Ranil to go home,” 29-year-old rickshaw driver Malik Perera, who took part in the Parliament protest, said on Thursday. “They have sold the country, we want a good person to take over, till then we will not stop.”
Protests against the economic crisis have been going on for months and came to light last weekend as hundreds of thousands of people stormed government buildings in Colombo, blaming the powerful Rajapaksa family and allies for runaway inflation, lack of basic goods and corruption. ordained.
Rajapaksa, his wife and two bodyguards left the country early Wednesday for the Maldives in an Air Force plane. Inside the presidential residence early Thursday, ordinary Sri Lankans roamed the halls carrying the building’s extensive art collection, luxury cars and the swimming pool. “The fighting is not over,” said 26-year-old student Terence Rodrigo, who said he was inside the campus as protesters took over the campus along with the prime minister’s official residence on Saturday. “We have to make the society better than this. The government is not solving the problems of the people.”
However, the usual protest sites were quiet and the organizers handed over the residences of the President and the Prime Minister to the government on Thursday evening. One of the organisers, Chamira Deduvage, told Reuters: “With the president out of the country …, holding the occupied places is no longer of symbolic value.” But another organiser, Kalum Amaratunga, said an action could be imminent after Wickremesinghe branded some protesters “fascists” in an address last evening.
The government imposed a curfew in Colombo from Thursday afternoon (0630 GMT) until Friday morning to prevent further unrest. Local media showed armored vehicles with soldiers patrolling the streets of the city. The army said soldiers have the right to use force to protect people and public property.