Sri Lanka crisis live news: PM office confirms president has fled

PM Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office says Gotabaya Rajapaksa has fled to the Maldives, hours before he was expected to resign.

  • The Sri Lankan prime minister’s office has confirmed that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has fled the country.
  • Rajapaksa, 73, left for the Maldives hours before he was expected to resign amid widespread protests over his handling of a devastating economic crisis.
  • Hundreds of protesters in Colombo continue to occupy the official residences of the president and the prime minister after both buildings were stormed on Saturday.
  • Sri Lanka is facing a severe shortage of fuel and other essential supplies and is seeking a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

Here are the latest developments:

India denies it helped Sri Lankan leader escape

India “categorically denies baseless and speculative media reports” that it helped Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa escape to another country, India’s High Commission in Sri Lanka has tweeted.

“It is reiterated that India will continue to support the people of Sri Lanka as they seek to realise their aspirations for prosperity and progress through democratic means and values, established democratic institutions and constitutional framework,” the tweet said.

President’s resignation may reach Speaker by midday: Report

Sri Lanka’s parliamentary speaker could receive President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation letter by midday on Wednesday, a top ruling party source told Reuters news agency, after the leader fled to the Maldives following widespread protests.

Protesters have warned of a “decisive fight” if both Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe did not resign by the afternoon.

Sri Lankans continue to visit President’s House

On Wednesday morning, Sri Lankans continued to stream into the colonial-era President’s House.

A growing line of people waited to enter the residence, many of whom had traveled from outside Colombo on public transport.

“What Rajapaksa did – flee the country – is a timid act,” said Bhasura Wickremesinghe, a 24-year-old student of maritime electrical engineering, who came with friends.

“I am not celebrating. There is no point celebrating. We have nothing in this country at the moment.”

Sri Lanka crisis
Protesters shout slogans against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa outside his office in Colombo [Eranga Jayawardena/AP]

When will the Sri Lankan president resign?

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who has fled to the Maldives, is not expected to resign until after he reaches his final destination, sources tell Al Jazeera.

The president would most likely proceed to another Asian country from the Maldives, a government source said.

Saman Ekanayake, secretary to the prime minister, was told that the presidential secretariat is yet to receive his letter of resignation.

As a result, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has not made any preparation to take oath as temporary president, a source from the prime minister’s office told Al Jazeera.

Sri Lanka president flees to the Maldives

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, his wife and two bodyguards flew on a Sri Lankan Air Force plane to Male, the capital of the Maldives, the Sri Lankan Air Force confirmed in a statement to Al Jazeera.

The president’s flight brings an end to the rule of the powerful Rajapksa clan that has dominated politics in the South Asian nation for the last two decades.

Read more here.

Additional reporting by Saroj Pathirana from Colombo, Sri Lanka

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