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Speaker confirms resignation of Rajapaksa, new President in seven days

The embattled leader fled the country two days ago in the face of massive protests against his government for mishandling the economy

Speaker confirms resignation of Rajapaksa, new President in seven days
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Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has resigned, Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena officially announced on Friday.

The embattled leader fled the country two days ago in the face of massive protests against his government for mishandling the economy.

The 73-year-old leader on Thursday emailed his resignation letter to the Speaker soon after he was allowed by Singapore to enter the city-state on a 'private visit.'

On Friday morning, Speaker Abeywardena formally announced that President Rajapaksa has resigned after confirming the authenticity of the resignation letter emailed to him.

In a press statement, the Speaker said that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will act as interim president till the conclusion of the process of electing a new president by parliament.

He urged the public to allow a peaceful environment for all lawmakers to take part in the process which should finish within seven days.

The Sri Lankan Parliament will meet on Saturday. The Speaker received the resignation letter from Rajapaksa through the Sri Lanka High Commission in Singapore on Thursday night.

However, he wanted to make the official announcement after the verification process and legal formalities, his media secretary Indunil Abeywardena had said.

On Saturday, Rajapaksa announced to step down on July 13 after thousands of protesters stormed his official residence, blaming him for the unprecedented economic crisis that has brought the country to its knees.

He, however, fled to the Maldives without resigning from his office. From Maldives, he went to Singapore on Thursday.

A spokesperson for Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Rajapaksa has been 'allowed entry into Singapore on a private visit.'

He has not asked for asylum and neither has he been granted any asylum, the spokesperson said on Thursday, adding Singapore generally does not grant requests for asylum.

Rajapaksa was the first person with an Army background to be elected as Sri Lanka's President in 2019.

Under the Sri Lankan Constitution, if both the president and prime minister resign, the Speaker of parliament will serve as acting president for a maximum of 30 days.

The Parliament will elect a new president within 30 days from one of its members, who will hold the office for the remaining two years of the current term.

Rajapaksa, who had promised to resign on Wednesday instead appointed Prime Minister Wickremesinghe as the Acting President hours after he fled to the Maldives, escalating the political crisis and triggering a fresh wave of protests in the island nation.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe on Wednesday asked the Speaker to nominate a Prime Minister who is acceptable to both the Government and Opposition.

President Rajapaksa's brothers - former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and ex-finance minister Basil Rajapaksa on Thursday gave an undertaking to the Supreme Court through their lawyers that they will not leave the country until the Fundamental Rights petition filed against them is heard on Friday.

A five-judge bench of Lankan Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, Justice Buwaneka Aluwihare, Justice Priyantha Jayawardena, Justice Vijith Malalgoda, and Justice LTB Dehideniya are scheduled to hear on Friday the petition against the two members of the erstwhile powerful Rajapaksa family.

Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million people, is under the grip of an unprecedented economic turmoil, the worst in seven decades, leaving millions struggling to buy food, medicine, fuel and other essentials.

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