COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country Wednesday after months of protests demanding his ouster, with protesters besieging his official residence.
Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defense Spokesperson Colonel Nalin Herath said that Mr. Rajapaksa left for the Maldives on an air force flight at 2 am local time. Three immigration officials, who declined to be named because of the political situation, also confirmed his departure.
The island nation is enjoying Bad economic crisis Throughout its history, it has been marred by mismanagement and malpractice by the government. Protest against severe shortage of food, medicine and fuel It lasted for months.
Rajapaksa went into hiding after protesters took over his office and residence. He had told associates on Wednesday that he would resign.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe He had also suggested his resignation on Saturday, but he seemed to be staying. The protesters were demanding that he should resign.
Speaker of Parliament Mahinda Yappa Abeywardena said in a telephone interview that while Rajapaksa is confirmed to leave the country, he has not yet received the resignation letter from the President, which will officially end his presidency.
Mr. Rajapakse, 73, a career military officer, will be the last member of his family’s dynasty to leave government. In May, Mahinda Rajapaksa, the prime minister and the president’s older brother, was ousted by protests. Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, another brother and several family members were also removed from their posts.
Fuel shortages have upended daily life in Sri Lanka for months, leaving the country essentially bankrupt and without foreign currency reserves for essential imports. Food and medicine prices have soared, power cuts have become common and public transport is frequently halted to increase fuel supplies.
The transition to a new government has now drawn attention to the island nation of 22 million’s long-frustrated parliament, with lawmakers and political parties locked in protracted and chaotic battles for power. To complicate matters, the ruling party loyal to the Rajapakses still retains a majority of seats.
The Constitution of Sri Lanka is clear about succession. If a President resigns, the Prime Minister assumes his duties in the interim. Proceedings then return to parliament, where lawmakers vote for a new president from among themselves to complete the term. Mr. Rajapaksa had two years left in his term.
Still, the country’s political leaders remain unpopular and many are related to the Rajapaksa family. The protesters are adamant that a new leader should be appointed who is free from those ties. On Wednesday morning, as demonstrators carried out the president’s exit, it was unclear whether it would be enough to end months of protests.
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