Srilankan Prez Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigns after fleeing Sri Lanka

NEW DELHI/COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has resigned after landing in Singapore since he fled the island nation. People in Colombo burst firecrackers on hearing he has resigned. The parliament Speaker has confirmed he has got the resignation letter.
The resignation letter was sent by email to the speaker of parliament, who said he would complete legal processes and announce it officially on Friday.It has left some confused as to where they stand.
The President’s resignation comes on a day the protesters announced they would end their occupation of official buildings, including the presidential palace, presidential secretariat and the Prime Minister’s office.The Singapore government has said the former Sri Lankan President is on a “private visit” and has not applied for asylum. Mr Rajapaksa while he was President enjoyed immunity from arrest, which he used to leave Sri Lanka. He stepped down only after he was outside the country to avoid the possibility of being detained.

He is believed to have wanted to leave Sri Lanka before stepping down in order to avoid the possibility of arrest under a new administration.The cost of food, fuel and other basic supplies has soared for Sri Lankans. In the capital Colombo, delighted demonstrators greeted news of the president’s departure with dancing. “We are beyond happy but also beyond relieved so we can take a break and go back to our lives,” Viraga Perera told the BBC.”At this stage we are so exhausted because of all the flip-flopping, that we consider this moment substantial enough as a victory.”

Mr Rajapaksa arrived in Singapore earlier on Thursday after first flying to the Maldives on Tuesday night. Reports say he is accompanied by his wife and two bodyguards. Singapore’s foreign ministry said Mr Rajapaksa had not asked for asylum or been granted asylum. “Singapore generally does not grant requests for asylum,” it added. The acting president, Ranil Wickremesinghe, does not formally become interim president until he is sworn in. After that, Mr Wickremesinghe – who was appointed acting president by President Rajapaksa after the latter fled – has 30 days for parliament to endorse him. If they do not, MPs need to hold a vote for a new president.
“Earlier they fooled us [in saying] that he would go. It’s the same thing happening now, they have received the resignation letter but the speaker says they have to legalise it. I don’t know what there is to legalise. So it’s really crazy,” said Suzette Fernando, who was among the crowds celebrating However, the crowds appeared smaller than before: Mr Wickremesinghe on Thursday imposed a curfew for a second day to quell protests.

The streets of Colombo were calmer as anti-government demonstrators began leaving some of the official buildings they had occupied.”We are peacefully withdrawing from the presidential palace, the presidential secretariat and the prime minister’s office with immediate effect, but will continue our struggle,” said a spokeswoman for the protesters. One person died and 84 others were injured during Wednesday’s protests, which took place at key landmarks around the capital, Colombo, including the prime minister’s office.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has asked security forces to restore order and declared a state of emergency. Witnesses saw dozens of activists leave Mr Wickremesinghe’s office as armed police and security forces moved in, news agency AFP reported. “We are peacefully withdrawing from the Presidential Palace, the Presidential Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Office with immediate effect, but will continue our struggle,” a spokeswoman for the protesters said.
Mr Rajapaksa is expected to stay in Singapore for some time, according to Sri Lankan security sources, before potentially moving to the United Arab Emirates, AFP reported. Hundreds of thousands of people have visited Mr Rajapaksa’s compound since it was opened to the public after he fled and his security guards backed down. By Thursday afternoon, the gates were closed with armed guards placed in and outside.

Mr Rajapaksa is accused of mismanaging the economy to a point where the country has run out of foreign exchange to finance even the most essential imports, leading to severe hardships for its 22 million people. Sri Lanka defaulted on its $51-billion foreign debt in April and is in talks with the International Monetary Fund for a possible bailout.
The island has nearly exhausted its already scarce supplies of petrol with the government ordering the closure of non-essential offices and schools to reduce commuting and save fuel.
Diplomatic sources said Mr Rajapaksa’s attempts to secure a visa to the United States had been turned down because he had renounced his US citizenship in 2019 before running for President, AFP reported.

(Bureau Report with Media Inputs).

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