Gotabaya Rajapaksa flies to Singapore and emails resignation letter

Official announcement on July 15 after verification of the authenticity of the document sent by email

Official announcement on July 15 after verification of the authenticity of the document sent by email

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa emailed his resignation letter from Singapore on Thursday, the parliament speaker’s office said, postponing a formal announcement until Friday to verify the “authenticity and legality” of the document.

The development came a day after Mr Gotabaya, who came to power in 2019 after a landslide election victory, fled the country and took refuge on two other islands, as mass anti-government protests quickly escalated last weekend. Early Wednesday, he was flown to the Maldives by a Sri Lankan military plane. He arrived in Singapore on Thursday evening, the country’s foreign ministry confirmed.

Mr Gotabaya was allowed to enter Singapore “on a private visit”, the city-state’s foreign ministry said. “He did not apply for asylum, nor was he granted asylum,” the ministry said.

Parliament will not convene on Friday as announced, the office of President Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said, due to the delay in receiving the president’s resignation letter.

Once accepted, Mr Gotabaya’s resignation would mark a resounding victory for months-long citizen protests demanding “Gota go home”, taking responsibility for the country’s worst economic downturn since independence in 1948. The powerful leader was forced to flee and resign, after enraged protesters stormed his office and home on Saturday as a deepening crisis left citizens mostly scrambling amid acute shortages and hyperinflation.

For nearly 100 days, protesters camped out in a tent city adjacent to the presidential secretariat, located along Colombo’s Galle Face waterfront. They braved extreme weather, a crippling fuel shortage and violence unleashed by ruling party supporters on May 9.

Mr Gotabaya will be the latest of the Rajapaksa to step down from office, following his brothers, including former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who quit earlier following raging opposition to the ruling clan.

Unprecedented resistance to the Rajapaksas, Sri Lanka’s most fearsome political hallmark for over 15 years, has permanently eliminated the first family from political prominence for the foreseeable future. Today protesters continue to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was named interim president on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Maldivian president and ex-president Mohamed Nasheed announced Mr Gotabaya’s resignation on Twitter, minutes before the Sri Lankan president announced he had received the letter. Maldivian media earlier reported that Mr Nasheed met Mr Gotabaya at the airport and held talks before his departure, even as protesters in Male called on his government not to “protect criminals”.

“President GR has resigned. I hope Sri Lanka can now move forward. I believe that the president would not have resigned if he was still in Sri Lanka and feared losing his life. I salute the thoughtful actions of the government of the Maldives. My best wishes to the people of Sri Lanka,” Mr. Nasheed said in a tweet.

The opposition denounces the delay

The Sri Lankan political opposition has denounced the delay in the resignation of the president. “If that’s true, I’m amazed at the irony of what happened,” said opposition MP and leader of Sri Lanka’s Muslim Congress Rauff Hakeem. “Someone who came to power on a platform of national security fled the country for his own safety, fearing his own people. This fate would not have happened to him if he had had the foresight to stop at the right time. He dishonored himself and dishonored the whole nation,” he said. The Hindu.

Moreover, it was “distressing” that Mr Gotabaya had handed over the reins to “another person despised by the people”, Mr Hakeem said, referring to Mr Wickremesinghe. “He is oblivious to the realities on the ground…he too will be dishonored in the immediate future.”

Colombo lawmaker and leader of the Tamil Progressive Alliance, Mano Ganesan, said the president must “act immediately” on the president’s letter and start the constitutional process to elect a new president. “The President told us several times [party leaders] in the past five days that he had not yet received the President’s letter. Now that it’s arrived he should check it out and present it at the party leaders’ meeting tomorrow [July 15]so we can move quickly to the next steps,” he said. The Hindu.

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