Sri Lanka Live Updates: President Has Not Surfaced After Report of Resignation

Sri Lanka, An ally has announced that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has agreed to step down. Local media reported that Mr. Rajapaksa had ordered the distribution of cooking fuel, but the report could not be immediately verified.

The president has not been heard from since protesters besieged his residence, prompting questions about who is responsible.

Sri Lanka Live Updates: President Has Not Surfaced After Report of Resignation
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s whereabouts were unknown on Sunday.Credit…Chamila Karunarathne/EPA, via Shutterstock

Uncertainty over who will lead Sri Lanka deepened on Sunday as protesters occupied the halls of the presidential residence and office, yet to respond to reports that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa plans to resign later this week.

Saturday’s takeover of the apartment, where protesters swam in the pool and took selfies, was the culmination of months of discontent with a government accused of running the economy into the ground. In the hours following the demonstrations, there were more questions than answers about who was responsible.

The Speaker of Parliament said the President had agreed to resign and the Prime Minister, Rajapakse’s ally, said he would also step down.

But the chaos in the country – on the streets and in politics – is far from over. It is unclear what the next government will look like and what it can do immediately to address shortages of food, medicine, fuel, and other essentials.

Sri Lanka’s economy has been stagnant for months, weighed down by heavy government debt fueled by questionable spending on massive infrastructure projects, an epidemic that has decimated the country’s vital tourism revenue, and soaring fuel prices. Over the wood fire.

Mr. Rajapaksa implemented a major tax cut that slashed government revenue just before the pandemic, which effectively shut down tourism, and stretched the country’s economic engine. This year, Sri Lankan farmers faced food shortages after fertilizer was scarce during the growing season due to a poor plan to increase organic farming. As oil prices rose as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the government rationed electricity, while cooking gas became scarce. The nation even bartered tea leaves for Iranian oil.

On Sunday Mr. Rajapaksa ordered the distribution of cooking gas this week, local media reported, aimed at easing the economic distress that has led to months of protests.

As global fuel costs have risen since Russia invaded Ukraine, Sri Lanka has drawn on its limited foreign currency reserves to import fuel. India has loaned the country billions of dollars, but now the government has to turn to other allies, including Russia and Qatar, who have not said what kind of financial aid they will provide to the island nation.

The statement from the Office of the President could not be independently verified. But it appeared to be his first event since protesters took over the apartment on Saturday.

Mr. The news of Rajapakse’s resignation came from Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yappa Abeywardena. The president, he said, would step down on Wednesday to “ensure a peaceful transition of power.”

But since protesters besieged his official residence in the capital Colombo on Saturday, Mr. They accuse him of mismanaging the country’s finances and leading to economic ruin. They scored a victory in May when Mr. Rajapakse was forced to oust his elder brother Mahinda as prime minister.

Alternatively, former incumbent Ranil Wickremesinghe quickly began discussions with the International Monetary Fund on the terms of the economic bailout. But critics say Mr. Wickremesinghe was regarded as the protector of the Rajapaksas.

Demonstrators on Saturday Mr. Wickramasinghe’s house was laid siege to and set on fire in the ensuing melee. It was unclear who was responsible for the damage.

At the end of the day, Mr. Wickremesinghe said he too had agreed to resign.

Sri Lanka’s opposition hopes to install a new government amid turmoil

Sri Lankans walk around and spend time at the ongoing protest site a day after storming into the president's office in Colombo.
Sri Lankans walk around and spend time at the ongoing protest site a day after storming into the president’s office in Colombo.

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka’s opposition political parties met on Sunday to agree on a new government, a day after the country’s president and prime minister offered to resign, on the most dramatic day of a month of political turmoil, with protesters besieging the homes and offices of both leaders. Fire in a building in anger over the economic crisis.

Demonstrators stayed at President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s home, his beachfront office, and the Prime Minister’s residence, saying they would stay until he officially stepped down. Soldiers were deployed around the city and security forces chief Shavendra Silva appealed for public support to maintain law and order.

Ranjith Mathuma Bandara, a senior official of the main opposition United People’s Force, said separate talks had been held with other breakaway parties and lawmakers from Rajapaksa’s ruling coalition, and more meetings were planned. He did not say when a deal would be reached, though it was expected to be finalized on Sunday.

Another opposition member of parliament, MA Sumanthran, said that all the opposition parties could easily gather the 113 members needed to show a majority in parliament, and then they would ask Rajapaksa to form a new government and then resign.

Government spokesman Mohan Samaranayake said Rajapakse had apparently vacated his residence before the attack and had no information about his movements. In a statement released by the President’s Office on Sunday, Rajapaksa ordered officials to immediately distribute the cargo of cooking gas, which he said was still on the job.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he would step down once a new government was formed, hours after Rajapaksa said he would step down on Wednesday, the Speaker of Parliament said. People are struggling to get food, fuel, and other necessities due to a severe shortage of essential commodities due to economic collapse.

If both the President and the Prime Minister resign, Speaker Mahinda Yappa Abeywardena will take over as acting President in accordance with the Constitution.

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Crowds storm into the Sri Lankan president’s official residence, in Colombo on Saturday.

Rajapakse appointed Wickremesinghe as prime minister in May in an attempt to address the deficit and jump-start economic recovery.

Wickremesinghe was part of key talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout program and with the World Food Program to prepare for the predicted food crisis. Before an agreement can be reached, the government must submit a debt sustainability plan to the IMF in August.

Analysts say it is doubtful that any new leader can do better than Wickremesinghe. Much-needed fertilizers were distributed to farmers for the next season’s cultivation and cooking gas orders arrived in the country on Sunday.

“This kind of unrest could cause confusion among international bodies like the IMF and the World Bank,” political analyst Ranga Kalansuriya said, adding that a new administration would have to adopt a common plan for economic recovery.

He also said that while Wickremesinghe is moving in the right direction, his administration’s weakness is not implementing a long-term plan that focuses on solving day-to-day problems.

It is unlikely that an all-party government will agree to IMF-backed economic reforms without some parties losing their political support.

Wickremesinghe said on Saturday that it is not right to leave without a government.

“Today in this country we have a fuel crisis, food shortage, the head of the World Food Program is here, there are many issues to be discussed with the International Monetary Fund,” said Wickramasinghe. So, if this government leaves, another government has to be formed.

Thousands of protesters stormed into the capital Colombo on Saturday and entered Rajapakse’s stronghold. People thronged the garden pool, relaxing on couches and using their cell phone cameras to capture the moment. Some made tea or used the gym, while others demanded that the President and Prime Minister leave the conference room.

Both Wickramasinghe and Parliament Speaker Abeywardena said in their speeches that they had spoken to the President but did not say anything about his whereabouts.

Wickremesinghe’s office said the protesters later broke into the Prime Minister’s private residence and set it on fire. It is not clear if he was present when the intrusion took place.

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that Washington is observing the developments in Sri Lanka and is urging Parliament to act quickly to implement solutions and address people’s discontent.

Speaking at a news conference in Bangkok, Blinken said the United States condemns attacks on peaceful protesters while calling for a full investigation into protest-related violence.

Sri Lanka is relying on help from India and other countries as leaders try to negotiate a bailout with the International Monetary Fund. Wickremesinghe recently said that negotiations with the International Monetary Fund are complicated because Sri Lanka is now a bankrupt country.

Sri Lanka announced in April that it would suspend foreign debt repayments due to a shortage of foreign currency. Its total external debt is $51 billion, of which $28 billion is due to be repaid by the end of 2027.

Months of protests have shattered the Rajapaksa political dynasty, which has ruled Sri Lanka for the past two decades but has been accused by opponents of mismanagement and corruption. The president’s older brother resigned as prime minister in May after violent protests forced him to seek safety at a naval base. Later he settled in a house in Colombo.

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