Colombo, Sri Lanka:
Sri Lanka’s president arrived in Singapore on Thursday, as protesters kicked him out of his residence demanding that he keep his promise to abandon the country’s worst-ever economic crisis.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa landed in the city-state on a Saudia Airlines flight from the Maldives, which he flew early Wednesday.
As president, Rajapaksa enjoys immunity from arrest, and he is said to have wanted to go abroad before resigning to avoid possible detention.
But there was still no announcement of his resignation, more than 36 hours after he left his country.
In Colombo, protesters left several iconic state buildings they had attacked in recent days, after Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe directed security forces to restore order and declare peace. emergency state.
“We are peacefully withdrawing from the Presidential Palace, Presidential Office and Prime Minister’s Office with immediate effect, but will continue our struggle,” a spokesman for the protesters said. said.
Witnesses watched dozens of activists leave Wickremesinghe’s office as armed police and security forces moved in.
Armored aircraft carriers patrolling parts of the capital have been placed under a curfew.
Rajapaksa, his wife Ioma and two bodyguards were on the passenger list of Saudia SV788 from Male to Singapore, AFP reported.
According to Sri Lankan security sources, he is expected to stay in Singapore for a while before potentially moving to the United Arab Emirates.
However, Singapore said Rajapaksa was on a private visit and would not be granted asylum.
Hundreds of thousands of people have visited his compound since it was opened to the public after he fled and his security guards backed off.
By Thursday afternoon, the gates were closed with armed guards stationed inside and out.
Earlier the same day, business owner Gihan Martyn, 49, accused the chairman of “playing to buy time”.
“He’s a coward,” he said outside the presidential palace. “He ruined our country along with the Rajapaksa family. So we don’t trust him at all. We need a new government.”
Police said one soldier and one policeman were injured in overnight clashes with protesters outside parliament as security forces hit back at the legislature’s efforts.
Protesters also left the studio of the main state broadcaster after breaking in on Wednesday.
The main hospital in Colombo said about 85 people were hospitalized with injuries on Wednesday, with one man suffocating after being pepper sprayed at the prime minister’s office.
The army and police were issued new orders on Thursday to resolutely quell any violence, and warned troublemakers that they were “lawfully empowered to exercise their forces”.
But student Chirath Chathuranga Jayalath, 26, said: “You cannot stop this protest by killing people. They will shoot us in the head but we do this from our hearts.”
Rajapaksa is accused of mismanaging the economy to the point that the country has run out of foreign exchange to finance even the most essential imports, leading to severe hardship for its 22 million people.
Security sources in Colombo said Rajapaksa’s resignation was prepared.
“As soon as he gives the green light, the Speaker will issue it,” a source told AFP.
Maldivian media reported that he spent the night at the ultra-luxury Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi resort, contrasting luxurious accommodation with the plight of his compatriots – four out of five Sri Lankans skipped meals because of the country’s severe economic crisis. .
Sri Lanka defaulted on an external debt of $51 billion in April and is in talks with the IMF for a bailout.
The island has nearly exhausted its already scarce supply of gasoline with the government ordering the closure of non-essential offices and schools to minimize travel and save fuel.
Diplomatic sources said Rajapaksa’s attempt to secure a visa to the United States was rejected because he renounced his American citizenship in 2019 before running for president.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from an aggregated feed.)