Sri Lanka Live Updates: President Rajapaksa flees to Maldives

Credit…Dinuka Liyanawatte / Reuters

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country on Wednesday after months of demonstrations to keep him in office, culminating in the storming of his official residence.

mr. Rajapaksa flew on an Air Force plane to the Maldives at about 2 am local time, said Colonel Nalin Herat, a spokesman for the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defense. Three immigration officials, whose names have not been released due to the political situation, also confirmed his departure.

The island nation is experiencing worst economic crisis in its history, exacerbated by government mismanagement and mistakes. Protests due to acute shortage of food, medicine and fuel lasted for months.

mr. Rajapaksa went into hiding after protesters took over his office and residence. He told the allies that he was resigning on Wednesday.

This was stated by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. on Saturday suggested that he also resignbut it seems to have remained. The protesters also demanded his resignation.

As Mr. Rajapaksa’s departure from the country was confirmed, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, speaker of parliament, said in a telephone interview that he still has not received the president’s letter of resignation, which would make the end of his presidency official.

mr. Rajapaksa, 73, a professional soldier, will be the last member of his family’s dynasty to leave the government. In May, Mahinda Rajapaksa, the prime minister and elder brother of the president, was forced out of office by protests. Finance Minister Vasily Rajapaksa, another brother, and several other family members were also removed from their posts.

Fuel shortages changed daily life in Sri Lanka for several months, the country effectively went bankrupt and ran out of foreign exchange reserves for essential imports. Food and medicine prices have skyrocketed, power outages have become the norm, and public transport is often suspended to replenish fuel supplies.

The transition to a new government now draws attention to the parliament, which has long frustrated the island nation of 22 million, with lawmakers and political parties engaged in a protracted and messy power struggle. The situation is complicated by the fact that the ruling party, loyal to the Rajapaks, still retains the majority of seats.

The Constitution of Sri Lanka clearly regulates the succession. In the event of the President’s resignation, his duties are temporarily performed by the Prime Minister. The hearings then move to parliament, where lawmakers vote for a new president from among themselves to complete the term. mr. There were two years left before Rajapaksa’s term.

However, the country’s political leaders remain unpopular and many of them are associated with the Rajapaksa family. The protesters were adamant that a new leader free of these ties should be appointed. On Wednesday morning, as demonstrators prepared for the president’s departure, it was unclear whether that would be enough to end months of protests.