07/14/2022, 16.19
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Protesters vacate occupied government buildings in Colombo

by Melani Manel Perera

Sri Lankans are still waiting for President Rajapaksa’s letter of resignation. The now former head of state arrived in Singapore today. For Card Malcolm Ranjith, “we are all waiting anxiously to see whether he, the president, will keep his promise to resign.”

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Activists left government buildings this morning after Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe became acting president yesterday and imposed a curfew and called in the army to “restore order”.

Clashes with police saw the latter use tear gas and water cannons while protesters called for Wickremasinghe’s resignation. At least 84 people were injured and one person died.

“We are peacefully withdrawing from the President’s House, the Presidential Secretariat, and the Prime Minister's Office with immediate effect, but will continue our struggle," said Father Jeevantha Peiris speaking to the media. “After the speaker's statement, we took this decision as a measure to protect the peace in the country,” he added.

For his part, Archbishop Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo urged the country's leaders to give up power. For the prelate, “we are all waiting anxiously to see whether he, the president, will keep his promise to resign,” he told Crux, a Catholic news website.

In his view, “It was a good thing that people took to the streets.” Ultimately, “We are skeptics of our political leaders and their promises.”

The cardinal also had words for the security forces, asking them to understand the reasonable demands of the people to resolve the crisis peacefully.

After fleeing with his wife to the Maldives, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa flew to Singapore today. He is believed to have left the country to avoid arrest by the new administration.

Rajapaksa, who enjoyed immunity as president, is accused of war crimes against the Tamil population perpetrated during the civil war when he was minister of Defence.

At present, it is unclear whether he will stay in the city state (and if so, for how long) or head to another destination.

However, the now former president has yet to sent his letter of resignation as announced by the speaker of the parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena on 9 July, the day when, after months of unrest with people shouting “Gota Go Home”, protesters finally stormed the President’s House in the capital Colombo.

The president's resignation letter would allow Sri Lanka to start the succession process, the selection of a new president by parliament within 30 days. Speaker Abeywardena announced that parliament will meet tomorrow to start the discussions on a successor and vote on it on 20 July.

This morning the speaker said that a new government will be formed even if Rajapaksa does not formally resign.

In Colombo and other parts of the country, ordinary Sri Lankans have been protesting for months against the rising cost of living and the economic crisis.

In April, Sri Lanka defaulted on its US$ 50 billion foreign debt. Since then, it has been unable to import fuel and inflation has now reached 54 per cent, making it nigh impossible for most people to buy basic goods, including food and medicine.

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