Colombo, Sri Lanka:
Sri Lanka’s president submitted his resignation on Thursday shortly after arriving in Singapore, days after the head of state fled protests due to the worst economic crisis, the parliament speaker’s office said. of his country.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned via email, the speaker’s spokesman said hours after he landed in the city-state, after protesters flooded his palace over the weekend.
Rajapaksa fled to the Maldives on Wednesday, and left for Singapore a day later.
“The authenticity and legitimacy of the e-mail will have to be checked” before it is officially accepted, Indunil Yapa told AFP.
Rajapaksa will be the first president to resign since Sri Lanka adopted the presidential system of government in 1978.
As president, Rajapaksa enjoys immunity from arrest, and he is said to have wanted to go abroad before resigning to avoid possible detention.
Under Sri Lanka’s constitution, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe – whose resignation is also being demanded by protesters – will automatically become acting president until parliament can appoint a successor.
Rajapaksa, his wife Ioma and their two bodyguards arrived in Singapore from Male on a Saudia Airlines flight.
Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed Rajapaksa had been allowed into the city-state for a “private visit”, adding: “He has neither applied for asylum nor has been granted any asylum.”
A handful of Sri Lankans waited in one of the airport’s arrivals areas to voice their anger at Rajapaksa and the economic crisis engulfing their homeland.
A Sri Lankan design engineer working in Singapore, who identifies himself as Max, says: “I want to scold him with every word I know.
“He is responsible for everything that has happened in our country,” he told AFP.
Singapore authorities were quick to warn against protests – it is illegal for one to organize a protest without prior official permission in the heavily controlled territory.
Rajapaksa is expected to stay in the city for a while, according to Sri Lankan security sources, before potentially moving to the United Arab Emirates.
Protesters get out
In Colombo, protesters left several iconic state buildings they had attacked in recent days, after Wickremesinghe instructed security forces to restore order and declare a state of emergency.
“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 patrol parts of the capital, which have been placed under a curfew.
Hundreds of thousands of people have visited the Prime Minister’s residence since it was opened to the public, after he fled and his security agents backed off.
By Thursday afternoon, the gates were closed with armed guards stationed both inside and outside.
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… 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 repelled an attempt to storm the legislature.
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 runs out of foreign exchange to finance even the most essential imports, leading to severe hardship for its 22 million people, with 4/5 Sri Lankans skip meals.
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.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and was automatically generated from the syndication feed.)