Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has declared a state of emergency in the country and a curfew in the Western province has been imposed as protesters gathered near his office at Flower Road in Colombo. He has also ordered the security forces to arrest people acting in a riotous manner.
President Rajapaksa, 73, left the country along with his wife and two security officers on a military jet, a brief statement from the Sri Lanka Air Force said."On government request and in terms of powers available to a President under the Constitution, with complete approval from the ministry of defence, the President, his wife and two security officials were provided a Sri Lanka Air Force plane to depart from the Katunayake international airport for the Maldives in the early hours of July 13," the statement said.
The Prime Minister's Office also confirmed that the President had left the country.Rajapaksa, who enjoys immunity from prosecution while he is president, fled the country before resigning to avoid the possibility of arrest by the new government.On Saturday, Rajapaksa had announced to step down on Wednesday after thousands of protesters stormed his official residence, blaming him for the unprecedented economic crisis that has brought the country to its knees.
He arrived in the capital of the Maldives, Male, at around 03:00 local time (22:00 GMT), BBC reported.Rajapaksa is expected to be in the Maldives on transit before flying to another destination which is yet to be known.He is likely to send his resignation letter only after reaching his final destination on Wednesday evening, Sri Lanka's The Morning news portal reported, citing highly placed government sources.
It is learnt that the Rajapaksa's resignation letter would be sent to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena at around 8 pm Sri Lanka time, it added.
As the news of Rajapaksa's departure spread, an enthusiastic crowd gathered in Galle Face Green chanting the popular phrase Aragalayata Jayawewa, or Victory to the struggle in Sinhalese and "Go home Gota".The Police fired tear gas on protesters who had gathered near the PM office. The protesters broke through a barricade despite tear gas and stormed the prime minister's office, calling for his resignation.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has already said he was willing to resign and make way for an all-party government to take over.Citing sources, BBC also reported that Rajapaksa's younger brother and former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa has also left the country.
Sri Lanka's political parties have stepped up efforts to form an all-party government and subsequently elect a new President on July 20 to prevent the bankrupt nation sliding further into anarchy.
The Parliament will elect a new president within 30 days from one of its members, who will hold the office for the remaining two years of the current term.The protesters continue to occupy the three main buildings in the capital, the President's House, the presidential secretariat and the prime minister's official residence, Temple Trees, calling for their resignations.Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million people, is under the grip of an unprecedented economic turmoil, the worst in seven decades, leaving millions struggling to buy food, medicine, fuel and other essentials. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe last week said Sri Lanka is now a bankrupt country.
Ranil Wickremesinghe will be country's Acting President
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was appointed as the country's acting President after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled to the Maldives on a military jet on Wednesday in the face of a public revolt against his government for mishandling the economy that has bankrupted the country.
Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced that President Rajapaksa has appointed Prime Minister Wickremesinghe to act to perform his functions while he is abroad.This was under article 37(1) of the Constitution, he said.Meanwhile, the protesters who had arrived in large numbers at the PM Office have surrounded the building.
The PM Office had earlier corrected that a state of emergency would only be declared after his appointment as the acting President. The curfew, however, was in force.The Prime Minister has also ordered the security forces to arrest people acting in a riotous manner.