COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (Dispatches) — Protesters retreated from government buildings Thursday in Sri Lanka, restoring a tenuous calm to the economically crippled country, and the embattled president at last emailed the resignation that demonstrators have sought for months.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled a day earlier under pressure from protesters enraged by the island nation’s economic collapse. He emailed his resignation a day later than promised, according to an official.
But with a fractured opposition and confusion over who is in charge, a solution to the country’s many woes seemed no closer following Rajapaksa’s departure. And the president has further angered the crowds by making his prime minister the acting leader.
Protesters have pressed for both men to leave and for a unity government to address the economic calamity that has triggered widespread shortages of food, fuel and other necessities.
PM Becomes acting president, Election Set
Sri Lanka’s parliament will vote on a new president Wednesday, July 20, the speaker’s office said, following the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa after he was driven out of the country. Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as acting president on Friday.
The resignation of Sri Lanka’s president was accepted, the crisis-hit country’s parliamentary speaker announced Friday, after he fled the country earlier this week and sent notification from Singapore that he was stepping down.
The formal declaration makes Gotabaya Rajapaksa -- once known as ‘The Terminator’ for his ruthless crushing of Tamil rebels -- the first Sri Lankan head of state to resign since it adopted an executive presidency in 1978.
He emailed in his resignation from Singapore after flying to the city-state from the Maldives, where he initially escaped after demonstrators overran his palace at the weekend.