The resignation of Sri Lanka’s president has been accepted, the crisis-hit country’s parliamentary speaker announced Friday, after Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country earlier this week and notified him from Singapore that he was stepping down. Follow FRANCE 24’s live blog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).
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6:15am: Gotabaya’s resignation accepted, PM becomes acting president”Gotabaya has legally resigned” with effect from Thursday, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana told reporters.
“I have accepted the resignation.”
Under Sri Lanka’s constitution, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe – whose departure is also being demanded by protesters – will automatically become acting president until parliament can elect an MP to succeed Rajapaksa for the rest of his term.
The legislature will be summoned on Saturday, Abeywardana told reporters at his residence.
“I hope to complete the process of electing a new president within seven days,” he said. “I seek the cooperation of all concerned to complete the constitutional requirements.”
1:14am: Tensions, uncertainty and curfews linger
Even as Rajapaksa submitted his resignation and protesters withdrew from government buildings, a solution to the country’s many woes seemed no closer. The opposition is fractured, it is unclear who is in charge and the president has further angered the crowds by making his prime minister the acting leader.
Protesters have pressed for both men to leave and for a unity government to address the economic calamity that has triggered widespread shortages of food, fuel and other necessities.
The country remains a powder keg, and the military warned Thursday that it had powers to respond in case of chaos — a message some found concerning.
Troops in green uniforms and camouflage vests arrived in armored vehicles to reinforce barricades around the Parliament, while protesters vowed to continue holding rallies outside the president’s office until a new government was in place.
The government announced another curfew in the capital Colombo and its suburbs until early Friday. Some people ignored a previous curfew, but many others rarely leave their homes anyway because of fuel shortages.
1:05am: Protesters retreat from government buildings, vow to continue struggleProtesters retreated from government buildings Thursday in Sri Lanka, restoring a tenuous calm to the economically crippled country, after the embattled president at last emailed the resignation that demonstrators have sought for months.
Images of protesters inside the buildings — lounging on elegant sofas and beds, posing at officials’ desks and touring the opulent settings — have captured the world’s attention.
They initially vowed to hold those places until a new government was in place, but the movement shifted tactics Thursday, apparently concerned that any escalation in violence could undermine their message following clashes the previous night outside the Parliament that left dozens injured.
“The fear was that there could be a crack in the trust they held for the struggle,” said Nuzly, a protest leader who goes by only one name. “We’ve shown what power of the people can do, but it doesn’t mean we have to occupy these places.”
Visaka Jayaweer, a performing artist, described the bittersweet moment of closing the gate to the presidential palace after the crowds cleared out.
“Taking over his residence was a great moment. It showed just how much we wanted him to step down. But it is also a great relief” to leave, she said. “We were worried if people would act out — many were angry to see the luxury he had been living in when they were outside, struggling to buy milk for their children.”
11:44pm: Jubilation in Colombo after president hands in resignationRajapaksa’s resignation notice triggered jubilation in the commercial capital Colombo where protesters massed outside the presidential secretariat, defying a city-wide curfew.
Crowds set off firecrackers, shouted slogans and danced ecstatically at the Gota Go Gama protest site, named mockingly after Rajapaksa’s first name.
“The whole country will celebrate today,” Damitha Abeyrathne, an activist, said. “It’s a big victory.”
“We never thought we would get this country free from them,” she added, referring to the Rajapaksa family who dominated the South Asian country’s politics for two decades.
Rajapaksa submitted his resignation by email late on Thursday and it would become official on Friday, once the document had been legally verified, the speaker’s spokesperson said.
11:28pm: IMF loan talks interruptedBefore the president fled, Sri Lanka had begun preliminary discussions with the International Monetary Fund about a potential bailout loan, but these have been interrupted by the latest government chaos.
IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters on Thursday that Fund staff were still in contact with technical-level government officials but hoped to resume high-level dialogue “as soon as possible.”
He said any new loan program for Sri Lanka would require adequate assurances on debt sustainability.
5:08pm: Sri Lanka president submits resignation by e-mail from SingaporeSri Lanka’s president submitted his resignation Thursday shortly after reaching Singapore, the parliamentary speaker’s office said, days after the head of state fled protests triggered by his country’s worst-ever economic crisis.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned by email, the speaker’s spokesman said hours after he landed in the city-state.
“The authenticity and the legality of the e-mail will have to be checked out” before being formally accepted, Indunil Yapa told AFP, adding a formal announcement was expected on Friday.
Rajapaksa would be the first president to resign since Sri Lanka adopted a presidential system of government in 1978.
As president, Rajapaksa enjoyed immunity from arrest, and he is believed to have wanted to go abroad before stepping down to avoid the possibility of being detained.
Under Sri Lanka’s constitution, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe – whose resignation is also being demanded by protesters – would automatically become acting president until parliament can appoint a successor.
2:36pm: Singapore says Rajapaksa on private visit, not granted asylumSri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was allowed to enter Singapore Thursday on a private visit and has not been granted asylum, the city-state said, after the leader arrived from the Maldives.
“It is confirmed that Mr. Rajapaksa has been allowed entry into Singapore on a private visit,” Singapore’s foreign ministry said in a statement. “He has not asked for asylum and neither has he been granted any asylum. Singapore generally does not grant requests for asylum.”
1:40pm: Plane carrying Sri Lankan president lands in SingaporeA plane carrying Sri Lanka’s president arrived in Singapore from the Maldives Thursday, according to AFP reporters, a day after he escaped to the atoll nation.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa, his wife Ioma and their two bodyguards were on board the Saudia airline plane, which landed at Singapore’s Changi Airport at 7:17 pm local time (11:17am GMT).
11:17am: Sri Lanka army says soldiers authorised to use necessary force to prevent destruction of property and lifeSri Lankan soldiers had been authorised to use necessary force to prevent destruction of property and life, the country’s army said in a statement on Thursday.
9:42am: Sri Lanka’s embattled President Rajapaksa leaves Maldives on Saudi planeSri Lanka’s embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has left Maldives after fleeing his own country amid an economic collapse and political crisis.
He boarded a Saudi Airlines plane that will take him to Singapore and then to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a Maldives government officials said Thursday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Rajapaksa fled Sri Lanka early Wednesday as protesters were taking over government buildings to demand he resign.
8:34am: Sri Lanka protesters to end occupation of official buildingsSri Lanka’s anti-government demonstrators said Thursday they were ending their occupation of official buildings, as they vowed to press on with their bid to bring down the president and prime minister in the face of a dire economic crisis.
Protesters overran President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s palace at the weekend, forcing him to flee to the Maldives on Wednesday, when activists also stormed the office of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Rajapaksa had promised to resign on Wednesday, but there was no announcement he had done so.