Sri Lanka's parliament speaker accepts Rajapaksa's resignation

From this point, we will move to constitutionally appoint a new president, he says



By Qadijah Irshad

Published: Fri 15 Jul 2022, 9:02 AM

Last updated: Fri 15 Jul 2022, 9:27 AM

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is on the run, has “legally resigned”, announced Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena accepting Rajapaksa’s resignation on Friday.

"Gotabaya Rajapaksa has legally resigned on Thursday, and I have accepted his resignation,” the Speaker told reporters on Friday morning.

The announcement comes a day after Rajapaksa sent in a letter of resignation by email from Singapore to the Speaker, after he fled Sri Lanka on Wednesday, fearing arrest once he loses his presidential immunity.

The former president escaped Sri Lanka on Wednesday morning in a military flight to the Maldives, and then to Singapore where he was denied asylum. Sources say he will go to Saudi Arabia next, while members of the UK Parliament have called out for an international arrest warrant for Rajapaksa.

Protesters will be starting a peaceful hunger strike on Friday, demanding Wickremesinghe, who they believe has been protecting the Rajapaksas, to quit.

The former defence secretary who has been accused of war crimes, human rights violations, extra judicial killings and the infamous “White Van” abductions, is the first Sri Lankan head of state to resign since it adopted an executive presidency in 1978.

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Under Sri Lanka’s constitution, acting president and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, will automatically become interim president until the Parliament elects one of its members as president.

Once Wickremesinghe is sworn in as interim president, he will appoint a Prime Minister of his choice. Then a parliamentary process will be set off to elect a new president.

“I hope the election process of the new president will be complete in seven days,” said the Speaker.

The president’s resignation comes following protests by Sri Lankans who have been demanding the entire Rajapaksa family to quit. Sri Lanka’s 22 million people blame the Rajapaksa’s mismanagement and his family’s corruption that has robbed the nation of billions of dollars for the economic crisis the country’s currently facing.

Earlier in May, Mahinda Rajapaksa, then prime minister and older brother of Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned after protesters stormed into the prime minister’s residence.

Rajapaksa who was known for his divisive politics, pitting the majority Sinhalese against minority communities, came into power with majority Sinhalese votes.

Protesters who ousted the Rajapaksas also want Wickremesinghe out. “We won’t stop until he leaves too,” said Pradeep Kumara, one of the leaders of the Struggle movement that spearheaded the protests that overtook several government buildings last week including the presidential palace and the prime minister’s office.

This is the first time 72-year-old Wickremesinghe, who has been six times prime minister and failed in two presidential contests, will become president, albeit even for a week.


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