Sri Lanka has declared a state of emergency after the crisis-hit island nation’s Presidentm, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, fled to the Maldives,
President Rajapaksa’ government is facing one of the the worst economic crises in the nation’s history, with protesters also demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Sri Lanka’s economy has been repeatedly battered, first by Islamist extremist bomb attacks on churches and hotels in 2019 and then the pandemic.
With increasing tax cuts and spiraling inflation, Sri Lanka ran out of foreign currency needed to import essentials.
The country defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt pile and has been in bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund, even India provided financial and other aid.
Food shortages, electricity blackouts and increasing prices have led to a humanitarian crisis, with millions already in need of aid, leading to mass anger and chaotic protest culminating in the President’s exit.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 73, took office in 2019, whereas brother Mahinda, 76, was President for a decade until 2015 during which Sri Lanka’s long-running civil war ended in 2009. Gotabaya ran the security services at the time.
President Rajapaksa’s Response
After months of protests, things turned violent with at least nine people killed, as homes of ruling party members were torched.
Mahinda quit as PM, as Gotabaya replaced him with veteran politician Ranil Wickremesinghe, 73.
Wickremesinghe’s home was also set ablaze last week by protesters, even as he offered to resign.
PM Wickremesinghe on Wednesday said there was a ‘fascist threat to democracy’ in the country and vowed to ‘restore normalcy’ as well as stop the destruction of state property.
Sri Lankan party leaders have decided to elect a new President on July 20 through a vote in Parliament in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution said Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardhane.
The Speaker of parliament earlier said that Rajapaksa would formally resign on Wednesday to ensure a ‘peaceful transition’, as Wickremesinghe was appointed Acting President in his absence.
According to local news sources, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is to leave for Singapore later today after being taken to an undisclosed location escorted by state officials in Maldives.
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