Officials said Sri Lanka’s embattled president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, was flown to an airbase near the country’s main international airport on Monday, raising speculation he will flee into exile.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the presidential palace in Colombo on Saturday under naval protection, shortly after tens of thousands of protesters occupied the compound. Hours later, a parliamentary speaker announced that Rajapaksa would resign on Wednesday to enable a “peaceful transition of power”. The 73-year-old leader had taken refuge at a naval facility, a senior defense official told AFP, before being taken to Katunayake Air Force Base – which shares a fence with the country’s main Bandaranaike International Airport.
There is no indication of where President is currently, but several news sources report that he is likely leaving for Dubai later Monday. The Prime Minister’s office said that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had been officially informed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa of his intention to resign. However, no specific date was specified. Earlier in the day, 17.85 million rupees ($50,000) in cash was handed over to a court after it was turned in by protesters, police said. Official sources say a suitcase full of documents was left behind at the stately mansion. Rajapaksa lives in the two-century-old building after protesters tried to storm his private residence on March 31. If the president steps down as promised, Wickremesinghe will automatically become acting president until parliament elects a member of parliament for a term that ends in November 2024.
But Wickremesinghe himself announced his readiness to resign if a consensus is reached on the formation of a government of national unity. The process of succession to the throne can take from three days – the minimum time required to convene parliament – up to 30 days allowed by law.Samaga’s main opposition party, Can Balavegay (SJB), is enlisting the support of its leader, Sajit Premadasa, from Monday to Monday. An SJB official said they had reached a tentative agreement with opponents in the Sierra Leone People’s Party in Rajapaksa state to support 55-year-old Premadasa, who lost the 2019 presidential election. May 1993.
Five ministers resigned over the weekend, and Wickremesinghe’s office said the cabinet had agreed on Monday to resign en masse once an “all-party government” was reached. On Monday, a large number of people were lined up to visit the palace–more so than the long petrol lines that snaked their way through the city. Protesters say they will not leave until Rajapaksa officially resigns.There is a lot of demand for Rajapaksa to resign from his post, and some people are asking for a written confirmation of his resignation. “So I hope this resignation from the government, including the Prime Minister and the President, will be in the next few days.” The president’s private home in Colombo was set on fire on Saturday night. Protesters had been camping outside the president’s office for more than three months demanding he step down over the country’s unprecedented economic crisis.
Rajapaksa is being accused of mishandling the economy to the point where the country is running out of money to finance even the most essential imports, resulting in severe hardships for the 22 million population. Wickremesinghe, an opposition MP, was appointed prime minister in May to try to steer the country out of its economic crisis – the sixth time he has been appointed to the post. Sri Lanka defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt in April and is in talks with the IMF for a possible bailout. The island is running low on petrol, and may not have any more to spare. The government has ordered the closure of unessential offices and schools in order to reduce commuting and save fuel.