'Did everything to save Lanka': Rajapaksa says in resignation letter
On Saturday, Sri Lankan parliamentarians began selecting a new president to serve the remainder of the term left vacant by Gotabaya Rajapaksa. In his resignation letter, Rajapaksa claimed that he had done everything to save Lanka before fleeing following protests over the nation's economic collapse. People were enraged by months of food and gasoline shortages as well as crippling power outages.
- Sri Lanka has been facing record inflation and severe shortages of food, fuel, and other essentials.
- It is struggling to service its $51 billion foreign debt due to a lack of foreign exchange with the COVID-19 pandemic jeopardizing its lucrative tourism revenue.
- Rajapaksa was forced to flee the country and tender his resignation amid civil unrest, with protesters storming his residence and destroying property.
Rajapaksa stated in his resignation letter, which was read aloud in the Parliament on Saturday, that he "took all possible steps to address" the issue in his country. "It is my personal belief that I took all possible steps to address this crisis, including inviting parliamentarians to form an all-party or unity government," the resignation letter read.
Following Rajapaksa's resignation, a small group of protesters celebrated his ouster. A happy crowd handed out sweets, danced together, and waved the national flag at the seafront boulevard where protesters had been camping for months, demanding Rajapaksa's resignation for bringing the nation to its knees.
Rajapaksa reportedly flew to Singapore from the Maldives on board a Saudi Airlines flight on Thursday evening. The Daily Mirror reported that Rajapaksa and his wife would travel further to West Asia later. After a sea of protesters stormed Rajapaksa's presidential palace on Saturday, he went into hiding before fleeing to the Maldives on Wednesday. Subsequently, PM Ranil Wickremesinghe was appointed the interim president.
Battling an acute economic crisis, Sri Lanka's Parliament convened for a session on Saturday to start the procedure of electing the island nation's next president. The house will vote on July 20. This came after Rajapaksa was forced to flee the country and resign from the presidential post. Subsequently, Wickremesinghe, who recently resigned from the PM post, took an oath as the acting president.
On Friday, former Prime Minister Wickremesinghe took oath as the acting president of Sri Lanka after Rajapaksa's resignation was accepted officially. Political parties will also be proposing the name for Sri Lanka's new prime minister to the speaker on Saturday. The newly elected president will appoint the prime minister, which will have to be approved by the house.
Amid the ongoing political and economic turmoil, citizens continue to stand in queues for food and fuel. "We have been standing in line for fuel for over two days. I had it filled for [LKR] 10,000 which was enough for 2-3 days," said cricketer Chamika Karunaratne. A "fuel pass" has also been introduced by Sri Lanka to ensure a weekly fuel quota for motorists.