‘He’s a coward’: Sri Lankan president resigns after fleeing to Singapore

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned on Thursday after fleeing to Singapore following weeks of protests in his home country.

Demonstrators in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, stopped seizing government buildings, but vowed to continue to put pressure on the leaders of the South Asian nation.

Rajapaska’s resignation letter, emailed to the Speaker of Parliament, was sent to the country’s Attorney General for legal review before it was formally accepted, a spokesman for the parliament leader said.

The president left his residence on Saturday after protesters stormed the building to accuse him of mismanagement at a time when the country was going through the worst economic crisis in its history.

After several tries, Rajapaska finally managed to leave Sri Lanka on Wednesday for the Maldives with a short stopover before taking a flight on Saudi Arabia’s national airline to Singapore on Thursday.

He was booed and insulted as he left Velana airport, and a demonstration took place in the capital Male, calling on the Maldivian government to prevent his safe transit.

The Maldivian media reported that Mr. Rajapaksa spent the night in a luxury hotel. Waldorf Astoria Itaafushi hotel, and contrasted this luxury with the extreme hardships faced by many ordinary Sri Lankans.

Singapore authorities say he was “allowed to enter on a private visit” but not to seek asylum. Sri Lankan security officials say the former president may next try to fly to the United Arab Emirates.

Dozens injured in clashes in Colombo

In Colombo, witnesses saw dozens of people leaving the prime minister’s office on Thursday as armed security forces entered. Armored personnel carriers patrolled the capital’s districts under curfew.

“We are peacefully withdrawing from the presidential palace, the presidential secretariat and the prime minister’s office with immediate effect, but we will continue our fight,” a spokesman for the protesters said earlier.

A few hours before the announcement of the withdrawal, the police pushed back the demonstrators who tried to enter the Parliament.

In recent days, 85 people have been injured in clashes, one person died from tear gas.

Hundreds of thousands of people have visited the presidential palace since it opened to the public after Rajapaksa’s defection on Saturday.

On Thursday afternoon, the gates of the building were closed and guarded by armed men.

Earlier in the day, Gihan Martin, a 49-year-old store owner, accused the president of “wasting time.”

“He is a coward,” he growled at the presidential palace, “he destroyed our country along with the Rajapaksa family, so we do not trust him at all. We need a new government.”

On Thursday, the army and police received new orders to stop any violence and warned troublemakers that they have a “legal right to use force.”

This did not deter 26-year-old student Chirat Chaturang Jayalat: “You can’t stop these protests by killing people. They will shoot us in the head, but we do it from the bottom of our hearts,” he said.

Euronews spoke to journalist and writer Fidel Fernando, who is based in Colombo – watch the video player above.