Colombo, Jul 15 (EFE).- Gotabaya Rajapaksa has resigned as Sri Lankan president, to which he was elected in 2019, the Parliament formally announced Friday after authenticating a letter sent by him from Singapore.
“In this regard, the president has resigned and legally vacated his post on 14 July, 2022,” Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said at a press conference.
Abeywardene said the new president would be elected within seven days of Rajapaksa’s resignation.
“My aim is to complete the process as early and successfully as possible,” he said adding it was paramount to ensure the election of a new president under a transparent and democratic framework.
Until then, Ranil Wickremesinghe would continue as acting president.
Rajapaksa’s resignation is the result of intense protests in the island nation since March-end, when thousands of Sri Lankans began to take to the streets of Colombo to protest against the president’s management of the economic crisis.
Initially peaceful, the protests turned violent on Saturday when groups of protesters raided the residences of President Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in the capital, forcing them to flee.
Later that day, Rajapaksa announced that he would resign on Wednesday, but instead of doing so fled to the Maldives, accompanied by his spouse and two security guards, with full presidential immunity aboard an air force plane.
On Thursday, he landed in Singapore on a Saudi Airlines plane in the evening before officially resigning through a letter addressed to the Sri Lankan parliament until a day later by letter through diplomatic channels.
The Singapore foreign ministry has said that Rajapaksa is on a private visit, and has not sought nor been granted asylum.
It was unclear how long he intends to stay in Singapore or if he will head on to a new destination.
Earlier this week, despite reiterating his intention to step down on Wednesday, he waited until Thursday to apparently avoid the risk of being arrested in Sri Lanka once he lost his presidential immunity.
He appointed interim prime minister Wickremesinghe – who himself had resigned this week amid the massive protests – as the acting president before he fled.
Rajapaksa has now become the first Sri Lankan president to step down since Sri Lanka adopted the presidential system of government in 1978.
The streets of Colombo took on a festive atmosphere early Friday ahead of the imminent formal announcement of the Rajapaksa’s resignation.
Footage aired on local media and social networks showed large groups of people burning firecrackers, dancing to the beat of music and shouting slogans, many of them in front of the parliament or in the Galle Face park, near the Presidential Secretariat, which has been the epicenter of the protests. EFE