Emergency in Sri Lanka after President Gotabaya’s escape

Sri Lanka’s president fled the country without stepping down on Wednesday, plunging the country already grappling with economic chaos into further political turmoil. Protesters demanding a change in leadership again vented their anger on the Prime Minister and stormed his office.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his wife boarded an Air Force plane bound for the Maldives—and made their prime minister acting president in his absence. It only appears to further rage in the island nation, which has been hit by an economic slowdown for months that has led to severe shortages of food and fuel.

Sri Lanka's 'Terminator' President

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Sri Lanka’s ‘Terminator’ President

Thousands of protesters—who had speculated that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would be appointed acting president and wanted him to leave—rally outside his office complex and some broke down walls. The mob supported him and threw water bottles at those in charge.

Dozens can later be seen standing inside the office or on the terrace, waving the Sri Lankan flag – the latest in a series of takeovers of government buildings by protesters demanding a new government.

Supun Eranga, a 28-year-old civil servant in the crowd, said, “We need both of them to go home. Ranil could not fulfill what he had promised during his two months, so he should leave. All Ranil Did it. Was trying to save Rajapaksa.”

But Wickremesinghe, who had declared a state of emergency, appeared on television to reiterate that he would not leave until a new government was formed – and it was unclear when. Although he fled, Rajapaksa has yet to resign, but the speaker of parliament said the president assured him he would later in the day.

Police initially fired tear gas to disperse the protesters outside the Prime Minister’s Office but were unsuccessful. The security forces eventually gave up, with some retreating from the area and others simply standing around the overrun compound. Inside the building, there was an atmosphere of celebration, as people stretched out on elegant sofas, watched TV, and held mock meetings in wood-paneled conference rooms. Some roamed here and there as if they were visiting a museum. “We will cook here, eat here and stay here. We will be there till (Wickramasinghe) submits his resignation,” said 32-year-old Lahiru Ishara, supervisor at a supermarket in Colombo who has been a part of the protests since they began in April. Is.”

Over the weekend, protesters seized the president’s home and office and the prime minister’s official residence after months of demonstrations that toppled the political dynasty of the Rajapaksa family, which ruled Sri Lanka for most of the past two decades.

On Wednesday morning, Sri Lankans continued to flow into the Rashtrapati Bhavan. For days, people flocked to the palace – to swim in the pool, marvel at the pictures and relax on high beds with pillows. At dawn, the protesters took a break from shouting slogans as the Sri Lankan national anthem was being played by the speakers. Some waved the flag.

Protesters accused the president and his relatives of extorting money from the state exchequer over the years, and Rajapaksa’s administration of hastening the country’s collapse by mismanaging the economy.

As protests intensified outside the prime minister’s premises on Wednesday, his office imposed a state of emergency. It was not clear what effect the curfew would have.

The Air Force earlier said in a statement that it provided an aircraft with the approval of the Ministry of Defense for the President and his wife to travel to the Maldives. It said all immigration and customs laws were followed. Sri Lanka’s president is protected from arrest while in power, and it is possible that Rajapaksa planned his escape while he still had constitutional immunity. The corruption case against him in his former role as a defense officer was withdrawn when he was elected president in 2019.

Recognizing that Rajapaksa resigned, Sri Lankan lawmakers agreed to elect a new president on 20 July, who would serve the remainder of Rajapaksa’s term, which ends in 2024. That person could potentially appoint a new prime minister, who would then have to be approved by parliament.

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