Sri Lanka’s de facto deposed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa left the crisis state by plane on Wednesday evening. A military plane carrying Rajapaksa and his wife landed in the Maldives capital in Male in the morning, local authorities have confirmed. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe then declared a state of emergency. There is a curfew in the western province, including the capital Colombo.
According to “Kathpress”, political observers assume that Rajapaksa wants to avoid persecution by fleeing. As president, he enjoyed immunity that he would have lost if he resigned. The all-party government announced days ago has not yet come due to conflicts between the parties.
Protesters celebrate escape
News of Rajapaksa’s departure sparked spontaneous cheers among protesters in Colombo, according to a BBC report. Rajapaksa, 73, was recently the target of mass protests over a severe economic crisis in his country. Protesters demanded his resignation and that of the prime minister.
Over the weekend, an angry mob stormed the presidential palace and an office building belonging to the head of state, occupying them and setting fire to Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s private residence. He had also agreed to step down this weekend. Under the constitution, he is now temporarily acting president, local media report. Parliament plans to elect a new head of state on July 20.
Huge economic crisis
The island nation south of India, with some 22 million inhabitants, is experiencing its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948. Protesters’ anger is fueled, among other things, by the lack of fuel and gas for cooking , which has existed for months, but also because of the lack of medicines and food.
High inflation and hours of power outages also cause great resentment. One reason for this is that revenues from major tourism have collapsed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The heavily indebted country lacks the money to import important goods.
Monetary Fund should help
People blame Rajapaksa and his family for the economic crisis. In addition to the president, his brothers Mahinda and Basil were prime minister and finance minister respectively until their resignations in the spring. Likewise, a number of other members of the clan held high government posts. With a brief hiatus between 2015 and 2019, the Rajapaksas have ruled the country since 2005.
In view of the crisis, the government has asked the International Monetary Fund, India, China, Russia and other countries for help. The UN emergency agency warned in June that the severe economic crisis could exacerbate a looming hunger crisis in Sri Lanka. The country had been on a good development path for ten years and could do without humanitarian aid from the UN.
I’m Wayne Wickman, a professional journalist and author for Today Times Live. My specialty is covering global news and current events, offering readers a unique perspective on the world’s most pressing issues. I’m passionate about storytelling and helping people stay informed on the goings-on of our planet.