Sri Lanka president near airport as exile rumours spread

Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the presidential palace in Colombo under naval protection on Saturday, shortly before tens of thousands of protesters flooded the complex.

Hours later, the parliament speaker announced Rajapaksa would step down on Wednesday to allow a “peaceful transfer of power”.

A top defense official told AFP the 73-year-old leader took shelter at a naval facility before being taken to Katunayake Air Base, which shares a perimeter fence with the main Bandaranaike international airport. of the country.

“He and his entourage were flown back to Colombo by two Bell 412 helicopters,” he added.

There is no official word from the presidential office about his whereabouts, but some local media reports speculate he will leave Dubai late on Monday.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office said Rajapaksa had formally informed him of his intention to resign without specifying a date.

Cash in court

Earlier on the same day, 17.85 million rupees (about $50,000) in cash Rajapaksa left at the presidential palace was handed over to a court after being opposed by protesters, police said.

Official sources say a suitcase full of documents has also been left at the stately residence.

Rajapaksa took up residence in the building two centuries after he was evicted from his home on March 31 when protesters tried to storm it.

If Rajapaksa resigns as promised, Wickremesinghe will automatically become acting president until parliament elects an MP to serve his term ending in November 2024.

But Wickremesinghe himself has said he is ready to step down if consensus is reached on forming a unity government.

The succession process can take anywhere from three days – the minimum time to convene parliament – and up to 30 days allowed by statute.

The main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) party gathered in talks with smaller political groups on Monday to secure support for their leader Sajith Premadasa.

An SJB official said it had reached a tentative agreement with dissidents in Rajapaksa’s SLPP to support Premadasa, 55, who lost the 2019 presidential election.

Premadasa is the son of former president Ranasinghe Premadasa, who was assassinated in a suicide bombing by Tamil rebels in May 1993.

Former minister loyal to Rajapaksa, 63-year-old Dullas Alahapperuma, a former communications minister, was offered to become the new prime minister, an SJB lawmaker involved in the negotiations told AFP.

Five ministers resigned over the weekend and Wickremesinghe’s office said the cabinet had agreed on Monday to resign en masse after reaching an agreement on a “full-party government”.

Protesters stay

On Monday, huge queues formed to tour the palace – lines longer than some of the gas lines crisscrossing the city.

The protesters say they will not leave until Rajapaksa formally resigns.

“The demand is very clear, people are still asking for Rajapaksa to resign, and to resign completely, in a written confirmation,” protester Dela Peiris said.

“So hopefully we will have this resignation from the government including the prime minister and the president in the coming days.”

The prime minister’s home in Colombo was also set on fire on Saturday night.

Protesters have camped outside the president’s office for more than three months to demand that he leave the country’s unprecedented economic crisis.

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, resulting in severe hardship for its 22 million people.

Wickremesinghe, an opposition lawmaker, was appointed prime minister in May to try to get the country out of the economic crisis – his sixth appointment to the post.

Sri Lanka defaulted on $51 billion in foreign debt in April and is in talks with the IMF for a possible bailout.

The island has almost exhausted its already scarce supply of petroleum. The government has ordered the closure of non-essential offices and schools to reduce travel and save fuel.

Register Mint Newsletter

* Enter a valid email

* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Source link


News5s: Update the world's latest breaking news online of the day, breaking news, politics, society today, international mainstream news .Updated news 24/7: Entertainment, the World everyday world. Hot news, images, video clips that are updated quickly and reliably

Related Articles

Back to top button