ISSN 2330-717X

Sri Lanka: State Emergency Declared After President Flees

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By Luke Hunt

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(UCA News) — Sri Lanka’s former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has assumed the role of acting president and imposed a State of Emergency and a 24-hour curfew effective immediately after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country overnight, police and reports said.

Western embassies said violent outbreaks have been reported across Colombo and warned their nationals to remain indoors. The prime minister’s spokesman, Dinouk Colombage, told the media a legal explanation would follow the declaration of the state of emergency.

The demonstrators, however, remained on the streets.

“We don’t want to be angry. We just want to be released from these politicians,” said one protestor as he embraced a Sri Lankan flag.

Wickremesinghe had said he would resign and make way for an All-Party Government (AGP) after hundreds of thousands people demonstrated on Saturday. Rajapaksa also said he intended to resign, effective from today but instead he secretly flew to the Maldives.

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The Speaker of the Parliament, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, had been expected to assume the role of acting president for 30 days once Rajapaksa formally resigned. Politicians were expected to vote on a new leader through the APG on July 20.

The action of Wickremesinghe has triggered criticism from politicians vying to fill the vacuum left by the absconded president.

Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa said in a tweet: “PM becomes acting President only if the President appoints him as such, or if the office of President is vacant, or if the CJ [Chief Justice] in consultation with the Speaker forms the view that the President is unable to act.”

Premadasa has been touted as a potential president, alongside Dullas Alahapperuma, who is from Rajapaksa’s ruling Sri Lanka People’s Front and Wickremesinghe.

But opposition to Wickremesinghe has been growing. His residence was set ablaze amid weekend demonstrations when protestors blocked firemen from dousing the flames.

The Buddhist clergy had also prepared a list of five civil activists as potential candidates for the next president to be put forward if politicians failed to reach a consensus on finding a replacement for Rajapaksa.

“The future president should be chosen with a common agreement from all political parties and based on the national needs,” Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thera told journalists.

Sri Lanka’s economy has crumbled under 17 years of rule by the Rajapaksa family and a national debt of $51 billion. The country has also run out of fuel and hyperinflation has set in with the cost of living expected to rise by 60 percent this month.

Power blackouts are widespread, and schools have closed.

Earlier, police opened fire with tear canisters, near the prime minister’s offices as angry protestors began gathering outside after learning that Rajapakse had fled the country.

Security forces have been ordered to take action if demonstrations turn violent.

“Inspector General of Police CD Wickramaratne and the security forces had been instructed to arrest those rioting and to seize vehicles that are transporting mobs including persons behaving in a violent manner into custody,” news portal ColomboPage reported.

UCA News

The Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News, UCAN) is the leading independent Catholic news source in Asia. A network of journalists and editors that spans East, South and Southeast Asia, UCA News has for four decades aimed to provide the most accurate and up-to-date news, feature, commentary and analysis, and multimedia content on social, political and religious developments that relate or are of interest to the Catholic Church in Asia.

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