COLOMBO (SRI LANKA), July 13 : Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country early on Wednesday (July 13), a government source told Reuters, hours before he was due to resign after widespread protests over his handling of a devastating economic crisis.
The president’s departure was first reported by the Associated Press. Rajapaksa, his wife and two bodyguards left aboard a Sri Lankan Air Force plane bound for the city of Male, the capital of the Maldives, the AP report added, citing the official.
The government source said Rajapaksa had left the country but did not give more details.
Rajapaksa was due to resign as president on Wednesday to make way for a unity government, after thousands of protesters stormed his and the prime minister’s official residences on Saturday (July 9) demanding their ouster.
The president has not been seen in public since Friday (July 8). Parliament will elect his replacement on July 20.
The Rajapaksa family, including former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, has dominated the politics of the country of 22 million for years and most Sri Lankans blame them for current problems.
The tourism-dependent economy was hammered badly by the COVID-19 pandemic and a fall in remittances from overseas Sri Lankans, while a ban on chemical fertilisers damaged farm output. The ban was later reversed.
The political chaos could complicate efforts to pull Sri Lanka out of its worst economic crisis in seven decades, triggered by a severe shortage of foreign currency that has stalled imports of essentials such as fuel, food and medicines.
The financial meltdown developed after the COVID-19 pandemic hammered the tourism-reliant economy and slashed remittances from overseas workers. It has been compounded by large and growing government debt, rising oil prices and a seven-month ban on importing chemical fertilizers last year that devastated agriculture. Soaring inflation, at a record 54.6% in June and expected to hit 70% in the coming months, has heaped hardship on the population. – TVS
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