Sri Lanka declares state of emergency after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa flees

Sri Lanka, in the grip of a serious economic and political crisis, declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, July 13, just hours after its president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who declared the Prime Minister’s office, Dink Kulumbag, fled.

The police announced an indefinite curfew in the western province of the capital, Colombo, to contain the demonstrations. Thousands of people gathered outside the prime minister’s office, and security forces fired tear gas to prevent them from storming the building.

President Rajapaksa, early Wednesday, landed in the Maldives after leaving his country on a military plane. Immigration officials said the 73-year-old leader, who had vowed to step down and unsuccessfully tried to leave Sri Lanka on Tuesday, took off from Colombo International Airport with his wife and bodyguard in an Antonov 32.

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According to Sri Lankan airport sources, the plane was held for more than an hour on the tarmac awaiting clearance to land in the Maldives.

Immigration officials on Tuesday removed Rajapaksa from Colombo airport, and some of his advisers had considered ordering him and his relatives to flee on a patrol ship, according to a senior defense source.

A navy ship was used to transport the head of state from the presidential palace besieged by protesters to the northeastern port of Trincomalee on Saturday. Mr. Rajapaksa then joined Colombo International Airport by helicopter on Monday.

A bag full of 17.85 million rupees

Having not yet resigned, which he promised on Wednesday for a “peaceful transfer of power”Mr. Rajapaksa still enjoys presidential immunity.

In this leak, the Sri Lankan president left behind a bag full of documents and 17.85 million rupees (49,000 euros) in cash, which are now hidden.

If the head of state resigns as promised, then the Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, will be automatically appointed as interim president until Parliament elects a deputy who will exercise power until the end of the current term, i.e. November 2024.

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He was appointed in May by Sri Lanka’s president to replace his brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, but that was also challenged by Mr Wickremesinghe by protesters who had camped in front of the presidential secretariat for more than three months to demand the president’s resignation due to the unprecedented economic crisis the country is going through.

Mr Rajapaksa is accused of mismanaging the economy, which has left the country, hungry for foreign currency, unable to finance the most important imports for a population of 22 million. Colombo defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt in April, and is in talks with the International Monetary Fund over a possible rescue plan.

Sri Lanka is also on the verge of depleting its gasoline reserves. The government has ordered the closure of non-essential offices and schools to reduce travel and save fuel.

The world with AFP

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