Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa missed a deadline announced by the Parliament Speaker to submit his resignation after he fled the country for the Maldives as months of inflation-fueled protests gained momentum.
Reports indicate that Rajapaksa is leaving the Maldives for another country, possibly Singapore. His whereabouts remain unknown and he hasn’t been in touch with the Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.
The developments have left a power vacuum in Rajapaksa’s wake as demonstrators continued to push for new leadership and have stormed and occupied the president and prime minister’s offices and residences.
They are now up against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was made acting president and earlier imposed as state of emergency from Wednesday. Wickremesinghe said he formed a committee including the police and military chiefs to de-escalate the situation, while reiterating that parliament will choose a new president on July 20.
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All times are local Sri Lankan time.
Parliament Speaker Not in Contact with Rajapaksa (10:05 a.m.)
Let alone receiving the official presidential resignation letter by a promised July 13 deadline, Sri Lanka’s speaker hasn’t had any communication with Rajapaksa since earlier Wednesday, according to his media secretary. Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena will make an announcement once he receives an update from Rajapaksa, he said.
Parliament Session in Doubt Without President’s Resignation (9:15 a.m.)
The legislature’s proposed July 15 special meeting, meant to start the process of electing a new president, now hangs in balance because Rajapaksa didn’t resign Wednesday. Even if the president did send in his resignation Thursday, it’s uncertain whether the required paperwork can be done in time for parliament to meet Friday, according to Janakantha Silva, the legislature’s director of communication. The next scheduled session is July 19, he said.
UN’s Guterres Calls on Party Leaders to Compromise (07:11 a.m.)
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he is following Sri Lanka’s situation “very closely” and stresses the need to address protesters’ grievances. He called on party leaders to embrace “spirit of compromise” for a peaceful and democratic transition.
Rajapaksa Awaits Private Jet for Singapore, Daily Mirror Says (12:10 a.m.)
Talks were underway for Rajapaksa to secure a private aircraft bound for Singapore, Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror reported, without saying where it got the information from.
Rajapaksa Misses Wednesday Resignation Deadline (12:09 a.m.)
Sri Lanka’s Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena hasn’t announced Rajapaksa’s resignation, which means the leader missed a planned deadline to step down on Wednesday.
Wickremesinghe Seeks Nomination of New Premier (8:30 p.m.)
Sri Lanka’s Acting President and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe asked the parliament speaker to nominate a new premier “who is acceptable to both the government and opposition.”
Sticking to decision taken on July 11 that cabinet will relinquish duties once there’s an agreement to form an all-party government, Wickremesinghe’s media unit says in statement.
Protesters Break Outer Barricades Around Parliament (8:11 p.m.)
Hundreds of protestors have broken the first line of barricades set up outside parliament while forces are firing tear gas to disperse the crowds, Daily Mirror reported. Protests are swelling, calling for the ouster of President Rajapaksa — who fled the country Wednesday — and Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe.
President Rajapaksa Expected to Head to Singapore, Reuters Says (8:11 p.m.)
Cites an unidentified government source in Sri Lanka as saying President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is expected to head to Singapore after fleeing to the Maldives early Wednesday.
Main opposition Calls for Wickremesinghe Ouster (7:15 p.m.)
Following meeting of party leaders with speaker, where heads of security forces also participated, Sri Lanka’s main opposition reiterated demand for Wickremesinghe’s resignation as prime minister.
Will back speaker being appointed as acting president, chief opposition whip Lakshman Kiriella, of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya party, tells Sirasa TV. Wickremesinghe hadn’t participated.
Wickremesinghe: Parliament Will Choose New President on July 20 (3.50 p.m.)
Parliament will choose a president on July 20, Wickremesinghe said in a televised address. “We cannot tear up the Constitution,” he said, adding that some elements aided by politicians were trying to achieve their personal goals by stoking unrest. He didn’t name anyone.
He defended the imposition of emergency rule, saying the decision was made because the government had intelligence reports about attempts to take over the PM’s office and air force chief’s house.
Wickremesinghe said he had formed a committee that includes the police and military chief to de-escalate the situation. He didn’t say how long the emergency would stay.
Protesters Take Over PM’s Office (3:15 p.m.)
Protesters took over the PM’s office. Photos and video on social media and in local reports showed protesters on the terraces and roof of the building in Colombo, waving the national flag. Wickremesinghe’s whereabouts are unknown since the weekend, when protesters stormed his official residence and set fire to his private home. His spokesman declined to comment.
Rajapaksa Expected to Tender Resignation (2:52 p.m.)
Rajapaksa will submit a formal resignation later Wednesday, a spokesman for the parliament speaker said over the phone. The speaker hasn’t yet received the resignation letter.
Protesters Seize Sri Lanka’s State Broadcaster (1:45 p.m.)
At about 1:02 p.m. in Colombo — shortly after the protester-imposed deadline lapsed for Rajapaksa to submit his resignation — state broadcaster Rupavahini telecast images of one of its anchors introducing two protesters before going off air for a brief period.
“We have not cast a stone at Rupavahini,” one of the protesters said. “We only ask that you join the people in our struggle rather than taking the side of the government in power. We thank the staff of Rupavahini for assisting us.”
There was no comment from the Information Ministry.
Speaker Says PM Wickremesinghe Is Acting President (1:26 p.m.)
Sri Lanka’s parliament speaker said Wickremesinge is acting president after Rajapaksa fled the bankrupt country. The speaker cited Article 37-1 of the constitution, which says: “If the president is of the opinion that by reason of illness, absence from Sri Lanka or any other cause he will be unable to perform and discharge the powers, duties and functions of the office, he may appoint the Prime Minister to exercise… functions of the office of President.”
Wickremesighe Imposes Nationwide Emergency (1:13 p.m.)
In his capacity as acting president, Wickremesinghe imposed a state of emergency across Sri Lanka hours after Rajapaksa fled the country. He also imposed curfew in the Western Province, which includes the capital Colombo, his spokesman Dinouk Colombage said by phone.
Sri Lanka Air Force Confirms Rajapaksa Left For Maldives (7:01 a.m.)
The Sri Lankan Air Force provided a plane for Rajapaksa to leave the country for the Maldives following a decision by the security council, Air Force spokesman Group Captain Dushan Wijesinghe said on local television.
Wijesinghe said a request had come in from the current government and was approved by the Ministry of Defence. Rajapaksa left with his wife and two bodyguards.
The leader is now in the Maldives, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified as the matter is confidential.