Protest outside the office of Sri Lanka's PM Ranil Wickremesinghe, in Colombo Protest outside the office of Sri Lanka's PM Ranil Wickremesinghe, in Colombo 

Sri Lanka’s president flees the country

Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa arrives in the Maldives after mass protests force him to flee the country. His departure comes as protesters on Wednesday storm the Prime Minister’s office calling for his resignation.

By Vatican News staff reporter

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s departure came hours before he was due to step down as Head of State.

Protests against the economic crisis in Sri Lanka have rumbled on for months, with people blaming Rajapaksa for runaway inflation, corruption, and a severe lack of fuel and medicines.

They came to a head last weekend when hundreds of thousands of people took over key government buildings in Colombo.

State of Emergency

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe declared a state of emergency and a curfew in Western Province but then cancelled them. His office said the moves would be announced again later.

The speaker of parliament said Rajapaksa had approved Wickremesinghe acting as president, invoking a section of the constitution dealing with times when the president is unable to fulfill his duties.

However, protesters say the prime minister is allied to the Rajapaksas and have warned of a "decisive fight" if he too does not resign. Police fired tear gas as hundreds of protesters stormed the prime minister's office in Colombo demanding his ouster.

Rajapaksa was due to step down as president on Wednesday to make way for a unity government.

It’s also reported that the president would send in a letter of resignation later on Wednesday.

Media reports say the president's brothers, former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa, were still in Sri Lanka.

Economic turmoil

The Rajapaksa family ruled Sri Lanka for decades but many Sri Lankans blame President Rajapaksa's administration for the country’s recent economic woes.

The island nation's tourism-dependent economy suffered greatly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Rajapaksas implemented populist tax cuts in 2019 that affected government finances while decreasing foreign reserves and curtailed imports of fuel, food and medicines.

Amid the economic and political chaos, Sri Lanka's sovereign bond prices on Wednesday hit fresh record lows.

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13 July 2022, 14:14