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Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country on Wednesday, just days after thousands of protesters stormed his residence amid the nation’s crippling economic crisis.
Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had both agreed to step down, with the president’s resignation taking effect Wednesday. Wickremesinghe said he will step down once a new government takes office, but protesters are calling for an immediate resignation.
Protesters stormed the prime minister’s office after Rajapaksa’s departure from Sri Lanka and parts of the country declared a state of national emergency.
The groups could be seen climbing the wall and entering the office as the crowd roared in support, cheering them and waving the Sri Lankan flag. The police used tear gas to try to disperse the crowd, but they failed and more and more people marched down the alley and towards the office.
PRESIDENT OF SRI LANKAN AND PRIME MINISTER RESIGNED AFTER Protesters stormed residences and set fire
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 had traveled from outside Colombo by public transport.
The president, his wife and two bodyguards left the country on a Sri Lankan Air Force plane bound for the Maldives, according to an immigration official. Rajapaksa left a few hours before leaving his post.
This comes after months of demonstrations against Sri Lankan officials as the South Asian country grapples with severe food and fuel shortages and skyrocketing inflation.
The demonstrators, in recent days, had broken into Rajapaksa’s house, occupying beds and swimming in a swimming pool. They also targeted the prime minister’s private residence and set it on fire.
Some protesters waved the Sri Lankan flag as chants broke out against the president and prime minister.
The president and his family are accused by protesters of stealing money from government coffers for years, although the family denied the allegations. And the Rajapaksa administration is accused of contributing to the country’s economic collapse through its policies. Rajapaksa acknowledged that some of his policies contributed to the crisis.
“I’m not happy that he escaped. He should be in prison,” said a protester occupying the president’s office, adding that Rajapaksa “ruined this country and stole our money. We won’t stop until we have a new president. and prime minister. “
PRESIDENT OF SRI LANKA BLOCKED BY AIRPORT STAFF DURING ATTEMPT TO ESCAPE THE COUNTRY AFTER Protesters broke into the house
The aviation said in a statement that a plane was provided to the president and his wife for their flight to the Maldives. The flight was approved by the Ministry of Defense. All immigration and customs laws have been respected, the note reads.
Sri Lankan lawmakers agreed to elect a new president next week, although they struggled on Tuesday to decide on the composition of a new government to help lift the impoverished country from economic and political collapse.
Furthermore, lawmakers have yet to choose someone to take over as prime minister and fill the cabinet.
Rajapaksa’s replacement would serve as president for the remainder of his term, which ends in 2024. The new leader could potentially select a new prime minister, which Parliament would have to approve.
ECONOMIC PROTESTS ARRIVE AROUND THE WORLD AS CHALLENGES FROM INFLATION, THE WAR IN UKRAINE, THE MONTE DEL CORONAVIRUS
The country of around 22 million people is experiencing a severe shortage of foreign exchange, which has limited essential imports of fuel, food and medicine. The shortage has pushed the island into the worst financial situation of the last 70 years.
Sri Lanka has received no fuel shipments in recent weeks, forcing school closures and limiting gasoline and diesel for essential services. Residents skip meals to queue for hours due to lack of fuel.
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And the nation’s inflation levels are skyrocketing. Inflation in Sri Lanka reached 54.6% in June.
The nation’s political turmoil could impact its hopes of receiving a bailout from the International Monetary Fund. The government must submit a plan to the IMF in August on debt sustainability before an agreement can be reached.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.