On Thursday afternoon, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced in an email sent to the president of the country’s parliament that he will step down. The resignation will be formalized on Friday after all necessary legal proceedings have been completed.
Rajapaksa announced his resignation from Singapore, where he had arrived at 19.17 local time (13.17 Italian time) aboard a plane of the Saudi national company coming from the Maldives, where he had been for just one day. Rajapaksa fled his country on the night between Tuesday and Wednesday after huge protests against his government and family, during which hundreds of people also stormed the presidential palace. The Singapore Foreign Ministry has made it known that Rajapaksa “was allowed to enter Singapore on a private visit” and specified that “he did not seek asylum and was not granted any asylum. Singapore usually does not accept asylum requests ”.
If Rajapaksa had resigned while he was still in Sri Lanka, he would have lost the immunity enjoyed by the president, and therefore would have been at risk in the event of future trials on his management of power. He then fled to the Maldives, and shortly before his powers had been transferred to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, as stipulated in the Sri Lankan Constitution in the event of the president’s absence. But the population reacted with new protests, this time attacking the prime minister’s office.
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It is not clear why Rajapaksa left the Maldives and went to Singapore. It is likely that he is only an intermediate stop: for days several international newspapers have been claiming that he could seek refuge in the United Arab Emirates.
Meanwhile, the situation in Sri Lanka is one of great confusion. On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister and Acting President Wickremesinghe declared a state of emergency, imposed a curfew (as it had already done in April) and ordered the army to “do whatever it takes to restore order.”