The embattled President of Sri Lanka has finally resigned after months of protest. There were indications that Gobataya Rajapaksa would submit his resignation letter on Wednesday after he fled to the Maldives.
The President has now submitted his resignation to the speaker of Parliament, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardenena, through email after reports that he had fled to Singapore.
It was confirmed on Thursday that the embattled leader has departed from the Maldives and is currently in Singapore. The foreign ministry, in a statement, said Mr. Rajapaksa was in the country for a private visit but has not requested asylum.
“It is confirmed that Mr. Rajapaksa has been allowed entry into Singapore on a private visit. He has not asked for asylum and neither has he been granted any asylum. Singapore generally does not grant requests for asylum,” Singapore Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
According to reports, Rajapaksa was looking for a haven before submitting his resignation to avoid prosecution by the country’s new government. For now, the final destination of the leader is still unknown.
In a statement released by Abaywardenenena, he confirmed the receipt of Rajapaksa’s resignation. He said although the President sent his resignation letter through email, there was a need to validate its legality.
“The legality of it needs to be ascertained. It has been shared with the relevant authorities for the verification of the same,” the speaker said.
“Once we have official confirmation and it is legally verified, we hope to make a statement regarding it tomorrow morning,” he added.
The speaker said he is expecting a hard copy of the resignation letter, but it could take some time because the President is currently in Singapore. Earlier on Thursday, Mr. Abeywardenena said parliament would not reconvene until Rajapaksa submitted his resignation letter. With the recent development, parliament is expected to sit on Friday and discuss the next step.
The news of Rajapaksa’s resignation caused great joy in the capital city of Colombo, which protesters have occupied for almost a week.
“The whole country will celebrate today. It’s a big victory. We never thought we would get this country free from [the Rajapaksas],” activist Damitha Abeyrathne said in Colombo on Thursday.
Other protesters are still not convinced about the President’s resignation as the speaker is raising issues concerning the legality of Rajapaksa’s resignation.
“Earlier they fooled us that he would go. It’s the same thing happening now, they have received the resignation letter, but the speaker says they have to legalize it. I don’t know what there is to legalize. So it’s really crazy,” Suzette Fernando, one of the protesters said.
PROTESTERS ARE GRADUALLY LEAVING THE STREETS
The news of President Rajapaksa’s resignation and the efforts of security personnel are calming down the situation in Sri Lanka. As of Thursday evening, the crowd has reduced significantly, as protesters have started handing the occupied properties back to the authorities.
“We are peacefully withdrawing from the presidential palace, the presidential secretariat, and the prime minister’s office with immediate effect, but will continue our struggle,” a spokesperson of the protesters said.
“With the president out of the country, holding the captured places holds no symbolic value anymore,” Chameera Dedduwage told Reuters.
“The fight is not over. We have to make society better than this. The government is not solving people’s problems,” Terance Rodrigo, a student protester, said.
On Thursday, acting President Wickremesinghe ordered the military to restore order even if it meant “exercising force.” In a televised broadcast on Thursday, the Sri Lankan army spokesman, Brigadier Nilantha Premaratne, warned the protesters to stay off public properties and shun all forms of violence.
“In view of the escalation of violent acts, protesters intent on harming the armed forces or public property are earnestly urged to desist from all forms of violence immediately or be prepared to face consequences as members of the armed forces are legitimately empowered to exercise force,” Premaratne said.
At least one person has died and 84 injured since the protest started.