Sri Lanka crisis - live: Protests intensify as Rajapaksa flying to Saudi Arabia via Singapore

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Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled to the Maldives to escape the popular uprising in his country, is expected to fly to Singapore and then on to seek asylum in Saudi Arabia, according to the Maldives government.

Mr Rajapaksa, along with his wife Ioma Rajapaksa and two security officers, were planning to leave for Singapore from Male last night but did not board the aircraft due to security concerns, Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror reported citing sources.

Mr Rajapaksa, who earlier announced he would step down, fled to Male yesterday, triggering a further uproar in protest-hit Sri Lanka. Mr Rajapaksa is yet to send his resignation and has now missed his promised deadline of doing so by Wednesday.

His decision to bequeath his presidential powers to his long-time ally, prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, has only triggered more angry demonstrations, with protesters storming the premier’s office demanding that he steps down too.

On Thursday morning protesters withdrew from the office and handed its custody back to the security services. A new curfew has now been imposed that will last until 5am tomorrow.

Key Points

  • Rajapaksa likely to fly to Singapore

  • Speaker still awaiting Rajapaksa’s resignation letter

  • Wickremesinghe ‘first choice’ as full time president, despite protests, says report

  • Curfew ends in Sri Lanka

  • One dead, at least 45 hospitalised in standoff between police and protesters

  • Rajapaksa taking Saudi Airlines plane to Singapore, then Saudi Arabia, AP reports

Rajapaksa taking Saudi Airlines plane to Singapore, then Saudi Arabia, AP reports

08:45 , Stuti Mishra

Maldives officials say Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa is taking a Saudi Airlines plane to Singapore and then to Saudi Arabia, an AP reporter wrote on Twitter.

This comes after earlier reports in Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror stated the embattled president was awaiting a private jet and refused to board a Singapore airlines flight due to security concerns.

Fresh curfew imposed in Sri Lanka

08:11 , Stuti Mishra

Another curfew has been imposed in Sri Lanka today which will last till 5am tomorrow, a government release said.

This comes after a curfew imposed yesterday night after a chaotic day or protesters taking over government buildings was lifted today morning.

Private jet arrives in Maldives for Rajapaksa, report says

07:20 , Stuti Mishra

The private jet requested by Gotabaya Rajapaksa has arrived in Maldvives, according to Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror, which is likely to take the president to Singapore.

Mr Rajapaksa, who fled Sri Lanka early morning yesterday amid chaotic protests, did not board a Singapore airlines flight due to security concerns, local media reports stated.

Instead a private plane was asked for the president, his wife and two security officials.

Mr Rajapaksa is also expected to send his resignation, something he assured to do on Wednesday, after he reaches Singapore.

Protesters vacate PM office, military guards the empty chair

07:12 , Stuti Mishra

Prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office, which was overtaken by angry protesters yesterday, has been vacated and handed back to security personnel, according to Indian media reports.

A video by Indian news agency ANI shows military personnel guarding the prime minister’s empty chair in his office in Colombo.

Mr Wickremesinghe has been appointed acting president and is also in the race to be appointed full time president as Gotabaya Rajapaksa has fled the country.

One dead, at least 45 hospitalised in standoff between police and protesters

07:00 , Stuti Mishra

The standoff between police and protesters yesterday has left one person dead and at least 45 hospitalised after the forces fired tear gas.

Hospital sources told Reuters that at least 45 people were hospitalised following the clashes between riot police and protesters yesterday night near the parliament building, as people demanded the ouster of both President Rajapaksa and acting-President Wickremesinghe.

Local media said a 26-year-old protester who was hospitalised after being tear-gassed died of breathing difficulties.

“Some of the protesters who had gathered outside the parliament building have now dispersed,” police spokesman Nalin Thalduwa told Reuters. “The area is now calm.”

He said he had no information on how many were hospitalised.

The protesters stormed government buildings in the capital, including the prime minister’s office yesterday, as anger increased after Mr Rajapaksa fled the country early morning without resigning.

Mr Wickremesinghe, who vowed to continue despite calls for his ouster, yesterday ordered army and police to control the protests.

Who is Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sri Lanka’s new acting president?

06:50 , Stuti Mishra

Days after agreeing to step down as prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe was appointed Sri Lanka’s caretaker president on Wednesday much to the anger of protesters who seek accountability from the government over a debilitating economic crisis.

But the protesters who demand Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign also want Mr Wickremesinghe to step down.

My colleague Sravasti Dasgupta tells you everything you need to know about Sri Lanka’s acting president, whose appointment has intensified the protests further.

Who is Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sri Lanka’s new acting president

Wickremesinghe ‘first choice’ as full time president, despite protests, says report

06:39 , Stuti Mishra

A top ruling party source has told Reuters that prime minister and acting president, Ranil Wickremesinghe, was the first choice to take over as a full-time president, although no decision had been taken.

Sri Lanka’s parliament is expected to name a new full-time president next week and continues to deliberate over possible successors of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled the country yesterday appointing Mr Wickremesinghe in charge in his absence.

However, if the party agrees on Mr Wickremesinghe the decision may not go down well with protestors who have been demanding his ouster

Curfew ends in Sri Lanka

06:00 , Stuti Mishra

The night curfew imposed by Sri Lanka’s acting president Ranil Wickremesinghe after yesterday’s massive protests which also saw his office stormed, has officially ended.

The curfew was imposed till 5am local time, according to an official ordinance.

According to the ordinance, “no person shall be on any public road, railway, public park, public recreation ground or other public ground or the seashore in such areas, from 12.00 hour of July 13th, 2022 to 05.00 hour of July 14th, 2022.”

The decision to impose the curfew came yesterday afternoon before Mr Wickremesinghe’s official appointment as acting president in absence of Gotabaya Rajapaksa but was soon withdrawn, only to be imposed again later.

UN chief following situation in Sri Lanka 'very closely,' calls for peace

05:52 , Stuti Mishra

United Nations chief António Guterres called for peace in Sri Lanka as protests intensified after Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s move to flee the strife-torn country in deep economic recession.

He urged all party leaders in the country to embrace the spirit of compromise for a peaceful and democratic transition.

“I continue to follow the situation in Sri Lanka very closely. It is important that the root causes of the conflict and protestors’ grievances are addressed,” he added.

Speaker still awaiting Rajapaksa’s resignation letter

05:34 , Stuti Mishra

The Sri Lankan government is still awaiting the resignation letter of president Gotabaya Rajapaksa who announced he would step down yesterday but instead fled to Maldives.

As of this morning, no resignation letter has been received by speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywarden, Reuters reported, quoting a source close to him.

Mr Rajapaksa has repeatedly assured that he intends to step down as massive protests demanding a change in government rock the cash-stripped nation.

But after flying to Maldives, he appointed his ally and prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as the acting president, which triggered more protests.

A man takes photos of the vandalized gateway leading to the presidential palace after it was stormed by angry protestors (Getty Images)
A man takes photos of the vandalized gateway leading to the presidential palace after it was stormed by angry protestors (Getty Images)

Rajapaksa likely to fly to Singapore

05:27 , Stuti Mishra

Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled to the Maldives to escape the popular uprising in the country, is expected to fly to Singapore today, according to local media reports.

Mr Rajapaksa, along with his wife Ioma Rajapaksa and two security officers, were expected to leave for Singapore from Male last night but did not board the aircraft due to security issues, Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror reported citing sources.

A private jet has now been arranged for the embattled president, whose arrival in the island nation sparked protests, and he will board the flight to Singapore, according to Maldivian media reports.

04:57 , Stuti Mishra

Good morning! Welcome to The Independent’s rolling coverage of the Sri Lanka crisis. Stay tuned for the latest!

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