Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has fled the country: Live updates

debt…Dinuka Liyanawatha/Reuters

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka was plunged into a political crisis on Wednesday after the president left the country and it is difficult to decide who leads the nearly bankrupt nation as the opposition calls for the prime minister to resign.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa arrived in the Maldives early Wednesday morning. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is expected to take over once Rajapakse officially resigns, his spokesman said.

But Mr. Protesters, who had also called for Wickremesinghe to step down, were displeased that he had not yet resigned and could instead become interim president. They marched to his office, where the police and army fired tear gas to disperse them. As the afternoon sun hung down in the capital, Colombo, the crowds continued to grow.

The president’s sudden departure plunged the capital into deep turmoil in what could be a lasting political upheaval. Once dominated by family members, Mr. The nation has been wracked by protests for months as Rajapakse and his cabinet steered the nation through a series of missteps.

The crisis, which began with an epidemic that decimated the tourism industry, worsened as the government burned through foreign currency reserves, leading to fuel shortages and rising prices of food and other essentials. Whoever takes over must quickly earn the trust of fed-up Sri Lankans.

Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defense Spokesperson Colonel Nalin Herath said that Mr. Rajapaksa left for the Maldives on an air force flight at 2 am local time.

The island nation is enjoying Bad economic crisis Throughout its history, it has been marred by mismanagement and malpractice by the government. The protest is due to acute shortage of food, medicine and fuel Months went on.

Rajapaksa went into hiding after protesters took over his office and residence. He had told associates on Wednesday that he would resign.

Speaker of Parliament Mahinda Yappa Abeywardena said in a telephone interview that while Rajapaksa is confirmed to leave the country, he has not yet received the resignation letter from the President, which will officially end his presidency.

Mr. Rajapakse, 73, a career military officer, will be the last member of his family’s dynasty to leave government. In May, Mahinda Rajapaksa, the prime minister and the president’s older brother, was ousted by protests. Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, another brother and several family members were also removed from their posts.

Fuel shortages have upended daily life in Sri Lanka for months, leaving the country essentially bankrupt and without foreign currency reserves for essential imports. Food and medicine prices have soared, power cuts have become common and public transport is frequently halted to increase fuel supplies.

The transition to a new government has now drawn attention to the island nation of 22 million’s long-frustrated parliament, with lawmakers and political parties locked in protracted and chaotic battles for power. To complicate matters, the ruling party loyal to the Rajapakses still retains a majority of seats.

The Constitution of Sri Lanka is clear about succession. If a President resigns, the Prime Minister assumes his duties in the interim. Proceedings then return to parliament, where lawmakers vote for a new president from among themselves to complete the term. Mr. Rajapaksa had two years left in his term.

Still, the country’s political leaders remain unpopular and many are related to the Rajapaksa family. The protesters are adamant that a new leader should be appointed who is free from those ties. On Wednesday morning, as demonstrators carried out the president’s exit, it was unclear whether it would be enough to end months of protests.

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