Sri Lankan president flees country as protesters storm prime minister’s office over state of emergency

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President of Sri Lanka Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country early Wednesday morning, just days after thousands of protesters stormed his residence due to the devastating economic crisis in the country.

Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe agreed to resign, with the president’s resignation taking effect on Wednesday. Wickremesinghe said he would resign as soon as a new government was formed, but demonstrators are demanding his immediate resignation.

Protesters stormed the prime minister’s office after Rajapaksa left Sri Lanka, and a state of emergency has been declared in parts of the country.

Groups were seen climbing over the wall and entering the office as the crowd roared in support, cheering them on and waving the Sri Lankan flag. The police fired tear gas to try and disperse the crowd, but to no avail, and more and more people marched down the alley towards the office.

PRESIDENT AND PRIME MINISTER OF SRI LANKA TO RESIGN AFTER STORM OF PROTESTERS AT THE RESIDENCE.

FILKE - Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa sings the national anthem of Sri Lanka during the country's Independence Day celebrations in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in February.  4 August 2022 The President of Sri Lanka fled the country in the early hours of Wednesday, 13 July 2022, days after protesters broke into his home, office and official residence of his Prime Minister, amid a three-month economic crisis, causing severe food and fuel shortages.  (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

FILKE – Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa sings the national anthem of Sri Lanka during the country’s Independence Day celebrations in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in February. 4 August 2022 The President of Sri Lanka fled the country in the early hours of Wednesday, 13 July 2022, days after protesters broke into his home, office and official residence of his Prime Minister, amid a three-month economic crisis, causing severe food and fuel shortages. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

On Wednesday morning, Sri Lankans continued to flock to the presidential palace. A growing line of people waited to enter the residence, many of whom traveled from outside Colombo via public transport.

The President, his wife and two bodyguards flew out of the country on a Sri Lankan Air Force plane. headed to the Maldives according to the immigration officer. Rajapaksa left just a few hours before he was supposed to leave his post.

It comes after months of demonstrations against Sri Lankan officials as the South Asian nation grapples with severe food and fuel shortages and skyrocketing inflation.

In recent days, protesters have broken into Rajapaksa’s home, taking over beds and swimming in the pool. They also targeted the prime minister’s private residence and set it on fire.

Some demonstrators waved the Sri Lankan flag as chants against the President and Prime Minister were heard.

Protesters accuse the president and his family of siphoning money from the state treasury for years, though the family denies the accusations. And the Rajapaksa administration is accused of facilitating economic collapse of the country through your politics. Rajapaksa admitted that some of his policies contributed to the crisis.

“I’m not happy that he ran away. He should be in prison,” said one of the protesters in office, adding that Rajapaksa “destroyed this country and stole our money. We won’t stop until we have a new president and prime minister.” “

AIRPORT STAFF BLOCKED SRI LANKA PRESIDENT WHEN ATTEMPT TO FLIGHT AFTER PROTESTURS INVESTED IN HOUSE

Protesters sit on chairs at the official residence of President Gotabay Rajapaksa after being stormed by anti-government protesters in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Wednesday, July 13, 2022.  (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Protesters sit on chairs at the official residence of President Gotabay Rajapaksa after being stormed by anti-government protesters in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Wednesday, July 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

The Air Force said in a statement that the president and his wife were given a plane to fly to the Maldives. The flight was approved by the Ministry of Defense. The statement said that all immigration and customs laws were observed.

Sri Lankan lawmakers have agreed to elect a new president next week, though they struggled on Tuesday to decide on the composition of a new government that will help pull the impoverished country out of economic and political collapse.

Legislators have also yet to choose someone to take over as prime minister and fill the cabinet.

Rajapaksa’s successor will serve as president until the end of his term, which ends in 2024. The new leader could potentially choose a new prime minister, who would have to be approved by parliament.

ECONOMIC PROTESTS AROUND THE WORLD AS CHALLENGES FROM INFLATION, WAR IN UKRAINE, CORONAVIRUS

A man takes a selfie by the pool of President Gotabai Rajapaksa's official residence three days after it was stormed by anti-government protesters in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Tuesday, July 12, 2022.  (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

A man takes a selfie by the pool of President Gotabai Rajapaksa’s official residence three days after it was stormed by anti-government protesters in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Tuesday, July 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

The country of about 22 million people is experiencing a severe shortage of foreign exchange, limiting imports of essential fuels, food and medicines. The shortage has left the island in its worst financial position in over 70 years.

Sri Lanka has not received fuel supplies in recent weeks, forcing school closures and limiting the use of gasoline and diesel fuel for essential services. Residents skip meals to queue for hours for scarce fuel.

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And the rate of inflation in the country is growing rapidly. Sri Lanka inflation reached 54.6% in June.

Political turmoil in the country could affect its hopes for financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund. In August, the government is due to submit a debt sustainability plan to the IMF before an agreement is reached.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.