Sri Lanka president flees to Maldives amid mass protests

Colombo, Jul 13 (EFE).- Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa left the country in a military plane early Wednesday and landed in the Maldives amid ongoing protests in island nation, the country’s air force reported.

Rajapaksa fled his official residence on Saturday before it was stormed by thousands of protesters who for months have been calling for the president to step down over a severe economic crisis in the country.

Rajapaksa, who after escaping from the presidential palace announced he would resign on Wednesday, made use of his presidential powers and left with his wife Ioma Rajapaksa for the Maldives early morning, the Sri Lankan Air Force Media Unit confirmed to EFE.

“Following a request by the government, with the full approval of the Defence Ministry, and under laws of the emigration and immigration (…) President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, his wife, and two other security personnel were given a plane belonging to the Sri Lanka Airforce to leave,” the Air Force said.

The Prime Minister’s Office also confirmed that the president had left the country.

Rajapaksa reached the Maldivian capital of Male before going away to an undisclosed location amid a strong security cover by the police, according to information from airport officials to the media.

Several members of the Rajapaksa family, who held senior positions in Gotabaya’s government, have also tried to leave the country since the popular uprising against them.

Sri Lankan airport authorities on Tuesday prevented Basil Rajapaksa, a former finance minister and younger brother of the president, from leaving the country, who tried to board a flight to Dubai from a VIP area of the airport.

Sri Lanka’s political parties agreed on Monday to appoint a new interim president on July 20 to end the power vacuum left by Rajapaksa’s departure.

President Rajapaksa’s resignation is expected to be formalized later during the day.

The island has been suffering from a severe shortage of medicines, food and fuel, caused in part by heavy sovereign debt, misguided government policies, and the impact of the pandemic on tourism, one of its main sources of income. EFE


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