(Update 2: adds Rajapaksa resignation)
Singapore, Jul 14 (EFE).- Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned as Sri Lankan president on Thursday after fleeing to Singapore amid massive protests in the crisis-hit island nation.
In a statement posted on Twitter, the office of Sri Lanka’s parliament speaker confirmed the receipt of a letter of resignation from Rajapaksa, which will be formally announced on Friday.
Rajapaksa, who on Wednesday flew on an Armed Forces aircraft to the Maldives, arrived in the city-state at 7.17pm local time for what the Singapore foreign ministry said was a private visit.
The ministry added that Rajapaksa had not sought nor been granted asylum.
Rajapaksa had earlier this week reiterated his intention to step down on Wednesday, but he waited until Thursday to apparently avoid being arrested in Sri Lanka, as he would have risked being arrested once he lost his presidential immunity.
He appointed interim prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe – who himself had resigned this week amid the massive protests – as the acting president before he fled.
It was unclear how long he intends to stay in Singapore or if he will head on to a new destination.
Rajapaksa had arrived in the Maldives on a Sri Lanka Air Force plane on Wednesday along with his wife and two security guards.
Maldivian media outlets had reported that the former Sri Lankan leader had planned to set off for Singapore on Wednesday evening, but surveillance at the capital’s airport delayed his plans.
Dozens of Sri Lankans had also protested in the Maldivian capital on Wednesday demanding Rajapaksa’s resignation, although the protest was soon dispersed by security forces.
After the news of Rajapaksa’s departure spread, thousands of protesters returned to the streets in Sri Lanka demanding that he and the prime minister step down immediately.
Although Wickremesinghe imposed a curfew in Colombo in a bid to bring the situation under control, protesters again occupied several government facilities, including the prime minister’s office, in a repeat of the weekend’s huge demonstrations that the presidential compound be overrun.
Rajapaksa’s resignation comes with Sri Lanka facing one of the worst economic crises since its independence in 1948 due to a shortage of foreign currency reserves and massive debt.
Tensions escalated at the end of March when the authorities imposed 13-hour long power cuts, which triggered protests calling for the government to step down.
Hundreds of protesters had occupied the vicinity of the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo and protests across the island nation have become commonplace as authorities look to secure a bailout package from the IMF to alleviate the crisis, which has led to shortages of staple products like medicine, gas and food. EFE