Sri Lanka president close to airport as exile rumours unfold

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Activists stand under an effigy of Sri Lankas President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, hanging from a clock tower near his official residence, in Colombo on July 10, 2022. — AFP
Activists stand underneath an effigy of Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, hanging from a clock tower close to his official residence, in Colombo on July 10, 2022. — AFP

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s embattled president was flown to an airbase close to the principle worldwide airport Monday, officers stated, elevating hypothesis he’ll flee into exile overseas.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the presidential palace in Colombo underneath naval safety on Saturday, shortly earlier than tens of hundreds of protesters overran the compound.

Hours later, the parliamentary speaker introduced Rajapaksa would resign on Wednesday to permit a “peaceable transition of energy”.

The 73-year-old chief had taken refuge at a navy facility, a prime defence official informed AFP, earlier than being dropped at the Katunayake airbase — which shares a fringe fence with the nation’s most important Bandaranaike Worldwide airport.

There was no official phrase from the president’s workplace about his whereabouts, however a number of native media experiences speculated he was set to go away for Dubai later Monday.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s workplace stated Rajapaksa had formally knowledgeable him of his intention to resign, with out specifying a date.

Money in courtroom

Earlier within the day, 17.85 million rupees (about $50,000) in money Rajapaksa left behind on the presidential palace was handed over to a courtroom after being turned in by protesters, police stated.

Official sources stated a suitcase stuffed with paperwork had additionally been left behind on the stately mansion.

Rajapaksa took up residence on the two-century-old constructing after he was pushed out of his non-public dwelling on March 31 when protesters tried to storm it.

If Rajapaksa steps down as promised, Wickremesinghe will robotically grow to be appearing president till parliament elects an MP to serve out his time period that ends in November 2024.

However Wickremesinghe has himself introduced his willingness to step down if consensus is reached on forming a unity authorities.

The succession course of might take between three days — the minimal time taken to convene parliament — and a most of 30 days allowed underneath the statute.

The primary opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) celebration was huddled in talks with smaller political teams Monday to safe help for his or her chief Sajith Premadasa.

An SJB official stated they reached a tentative settlement with dissidents in Rajapaksa’s SLPP to help 55-year-old Premadasa, who misplaced the 2019 presidential election.

Premadasa is the son of former president Ranasinghe Premadasa, who was assassinated in a Tamil insurgent suicide bombing in Could 1993.

Former Rajapaksa loyalist, Dullas Alahapperuma, 63, an ex-media minister, was tipped to be the brand new prime minister, an SJB legislator concerned within the talks informed AFP.

5 ministers resigned over the weekend and Wickremesinghe’s workplace stated the cupboard had agreed on Monday to resign en masse as soon as an settlement was reached on an “all-party authorities”.

Protesters keep put

On Monday, big queues shaped to go to the palace — in a line longer than among the petrol queues snaking their manner by means of town.

Protesters say they won’t depart till Rajapaksa formally quits.

“The demand may be very clear, persons are nonetheless asking for the resignation (of Rajapaksa), and full resignation, in a written affirmation,” stated protester Dela Peiris.

“So hopefully we could have this resignation from the federal government together with the prime minister and president within the coming days.”

The premier’s non-public dwelling in Colombo was additionally set on fireplace on Saturday night time.

Demonstrators had been tenting outdoors the president’s workplace for greater than three months demanding he stop over the nation’s unprecedented financial disaster.

Rajapaksa is accused of mismanaging the economic system to a degree the place the nation has run out of overseas trade to finance even probably the most important imports, resulting in extreme hardships for the 22 million inhabitants.

Wickremesinghe, an opposition legislator, was made premier in Could to attempt to lead the nation out of its financial disaster — the sixth time he has been appointed to the submit.

Sri Lanka defaulted on its $51 billion overseas debt in April and is in talks with the IMF for a attainable bailout.

The island has almost exhausted its already scarce provides of petrol. The federal government has ordered the closure of non-essential places of work and faculties to cut back commuting and save gas.

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