Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Thursday resigned from his post amid widespread protests over his government’s handling of the island nation’s worst economic crisis since independence in 1948, reported ANI, citing the Speaker’s office.
The Sri Lankan embassy in Singapore sent Rajapaksa’s resignation to Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana in an e-mail, according to Reuters. Earlier on Thursday, Rajapaksa flew to Singapore from Maldives, where he had first gone after fleeing from Sri Lanka.
In a statement, Abeywardana said that Rajapaksa’s exit will be officially announced on Friday after his resignation letter is legally verified and other legal procedures are followed, reported Newswire.
The protests against Rajapaksa has been going on for the past few months but they flared up on July 9 when protestors stormed his official house demanding that he resign. The protestors had also broken into the home of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in an affluent Colombo neighbourhood and set it on fire.
On the same day, Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe had said they will resign from their posts.
Rajapaksa, however, fled Sri Lanka to the Maldives hours before he was due to step down from his post on Wednesday. He is currently in Singapore with its government saying Rajapaksa has been allowed to enter the city-state on a private visit.
The Singapore foreign ministry has also clarified that Rajapaksa has neither sought an asylum nor been given one.
The economic crisis
Sri Lanka has run out of foreign-exchange reserves that has limited essential imports of fuel, food and medicine, plunging it into the worst economic meltdown in 70 years. The island nation’s inflation rate touched 54.6% year-over-year in June while food inflation shot up to 80%.
As the crisis deepened in April, violent clashes erupted between supporters of Rajapaksa’s party and the anti-government demonstrators. In May, 10 persons had died in the clashes.
The protestors had expressed discontent with the ruling dispensation by burning the ancestral home of the Rajapaksa family in Hambantota in May. The clashes had even forced Gotabaya Rajapaska’s brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was the prime minister at the time, to resign. However, Rajapaksa had refused to step down on multiple occasions.
As part of its efforts to resolve the crisis, Sri Lanka is holding talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout package.
On July 5, Wickremesinghe had told Parliament that the country is bankrupt. “We will have to face difficulties in 2023 as well,” he had said. “This is the truth. This is the reality.”
The United Nations has warned that more than a quarter of Sri Lanka’s people are at risk of food shortages. Sri Lanka Medical Council has stated that hospitals were running with minimum resources as the country imports more than 80% of its medical supplies. The top medical body also warned that it would not be able to handle any mass casualties due to the protests.