Sri Lanka introduced a State of Emergency, its President fled to the Maldives
A state of emergency was declared in Sri Lanka hours before President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was expected to resign after months of protests that culminated in storming his residence and that of the prime minister over the weekend.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe declared a state of emergency in the country. A curfew was also imposed in the western part of the island, and tear gas was used against demonstrators in the streets. According to local and international media, however, in the capital Colombo, hundreds of demonstrators are still at the residences of the head of state and the prime minister. There is an increased presence of the army on the streets, says a correspondent of "Al Jazeera" in the capital.
A local publication also reported shots fired at protesters near the prime minister's residence.
Rajapaksa, whose team confirmed days ago plans to step down on July 13 (today), has since fled to the Maldives, where he is expected to formally announce his resignation.
New problem: "acting president"
The 73-year-old head of state, linked to the country's economic collapse and the return of a period of family rule, fled to the Maldives with his wife and two security officials, according to the air force. They arrived around 1:00 a.m. Bulgarian time (3:00 a.m. local time) in the morning according to the BBC. The aim is believed to be to avoid the risk of being arrested by the next authority.
The local service of the British public media quoted an interlocutor, according to whom Rajapaksa will not stay in the Maldives, but will travel to a third country. And his brother, former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa, is no longer in the country.
Wickremesinghe, meanwhile, surprisingly declared himself "acting president" - a position that should, in theory, be held by the Speaker of Parliament.
According to his office, he will govern with the departure of Rajapaksa (confirmed by his team) and will give a "legal explanation" for his actions. The question is whether Wickremesinghe will not want to stay in power without even being sure if he has the right to take action like declaring a state of emergency (at the very least he should have become acting president before doing so).
Later, the speaker of the parliament announced that the president had informed him about the transfer of powers to the prime minister. The head of state is yet to comment.
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