Sri Lanka’s now former President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has fled Sri Lanka on a military jet, amid mass protests over the island's economic crisis.
The Sri Lankan air force confirmed this morning that the 73-year-old flew to the Maldives with his wife and two security officials. Whilst gone, he has appointed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as acting president.
However, Ranil Wickremesinghe is already gaining increasing unpopularity as he has declared a state of emergency across the country and a curfew has been imposed in the western province. As well as this, police have fired tear gas to disperse a group of protesters who were walking near the prime minister's office and towards parliament.
Rajapaksa's departure ends a family dynasty that has dominated Sri Lanka's politics for the past two decades. The president had been in hiding after crowds stormed his residence on Saturday, vandalising property and jumping into his swimming pool. He had pledged to resign today, Wednesday the 13th of July.
The BBC reported that Rajapaksa will not remain in the Maldives and intends to travel to an undisclosed country. His brother, former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, has also left Sri Lanka and is said to be heading to the USA.
As Sri Lankans awoke to the news that Rajapaksa had left, thousands of people took to the streets of the capital, Colombo. The BBC reported that many gathered at Galle Face Green, the city's main protest site where fiery speeches were held at a makeshift stage set up for ordinary people to take the mic.
The rallying cry of the protest movement ‘Victory to the struggle’ could be heard as speakers railed against a government and the leaders they feel have failed them.
Some demonstrators were furious about Mr Rajapaksa's departure, seeing the move as a lack of accountability. ‘We don't like it. We want to keep him. We want our money back! And we want to put all the Rajapaksas in an open prison where they can do farm work,’ said protester GP Nimal.
But 23-year-old university student Reshani Samarakoon said that he hoped the former president's exile would lead to a new future for Sri Lanka where they can become a fully developed country economically and socially.
The protests came about due to Sri Lanka being in its worst economic crisis in the past two decades. The citizens of Sri Lanka were facing daily power outages due to rolling blackouts as well as mass shortages of necessities such as food, fuel and medicine.
The protestors blamed Rajapaksa's administration for this as the three Rajapaska brothers had dominated Sri Lankan politics for two decades. The protesters' outrage over the poor administration has paid off and the next political move for Sri Lanka is unclear.
Edited by: Sara Moreira
Image Credit: Time
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