Sri Lanka crisis - live: Rajapaksa flees to Maldives as state of emergency imposed

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·7-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The Sri Lankan government declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew as protests intensified on Wednesday after president Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country during the small hours of the morning.

Police fired several rounds of tear gas and a military helicopter briefly circled overhead to disperse the crowd that tried to storm prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's office in Colombo, where they are demanding his resignation as well.

Invoking a section of the constitution, Mr Wickremesinghe was appointed as the acting president on Wednesday amid the crippling economic crisis plaguing the island nation of 22 million people.

"The prime minister as acting president has declared a state of emergency (countrywide) and imposed a curfew in Western Province," Mr Wickremesinghe's media secretary, Dinouk Colombage, told Reuters.

Mr Rajapaksa, his wife and two bodyguards fled to Male, the capital of the Maldives, in a military jet, hours before he was scheduled to officially step down from office, the country's air force said in a statement. He was due to step down as president on Wednesday to make way for a unity government.

Mr Wickremesinghe had also offered to resign as the prime minister, once the opposition agreed on forming a new all-party government.

Key Points

  • President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has fled to Maldives

  • Rajapaksa to reportedly fly from Maldives to Singapore

  • Ranil Wickremesinghe appointed acting president

  • Protesters storm into prime minister’s Colombo office

  • Emergency declared in Sri Lanka

Rajapaksa to fly from Maldives to Singapore: reports

11:37 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa is expected to seek asylum in Singapore, where he will fly from the Maldives later on Wednesday, according to a number of local media reports in Sri Lanka.

Mr Rajapaksa, his wife and two bodyguards fled the country in the dead of the night on a military jet to Male. He was received by a Maldivian government representative at the Velana airport.

According to reports, the president is currently at the Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi Resort.

Acting president tells security forces to ‘restore order'

11:27 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Acting president Ranil Wickremesinghe, in a televised statement, has asked military and security forces to “restore law and order” in the cash-strapped nation.

A committee comprising of the chief of defence staff, tri force commanders and IGP, has been appointed to ensure the security and the safety of the citizens, Sri Lanka-based Daily Mirror reported.

The committee will be given the power to act without interference from politicians, Mr Wickremesinghe said on Wednesday.

Protest outside the office of Sri Lanka’s PM Ranil Wickremesinghe (REUTERS)
Protest outside the office of Sri Lanka’s PM Ranil Wickremesinghe (REUTERS)

Opposition questions Wickremesinghe’s appointment as acting president

11:17 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Opposition leader and chief of Samagi Jana Balawegaya party Sajith Premadasa has raised doubts over prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s appointment as the acting president.

In a tweet on Wednesday, he said: “PM becomes acting president only if the president appoints him as such, or if the office of president is vacant, or if the CJ in consultation with the speaker forms the view that the President is unable to act.”

“In the absence of any of these, the PM cannot exercise the powers of president, and cannot declare curfew or a state of emergency.”

Rajapaksa to resign today, says speaker

10:50 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who has fled to the Maldives, will send his resignation by the end of the day, speaker of the parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena told reporters on Wednesday.

The speaker added that a new president will be elected on 20 July as announced earlier.

Sri Lankan national channels suspend broadcast

10:37 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Sri Lanka’s national television channel Rupavihini suspended its broadcast after anti-government protesters entered the newsroom and took over the screens.

Shortly after, the Independent Television Network (ITN) suspended its live and recorded telecast as well due to the premises being surrounded by protesters.

Prime minister’s Colombo office breached

10:32 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Protesters have stormed into prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office compound, despite police firing tear gas shells and using water cannons.

They were seen raising slogans against the prime minister and the president from the balcony of the Flow Road office.

Nationwide emergency declared in Sri Lanka

10:20 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

The Sri Lankan government has declared a nationwide state of emergency to curb the months-long anti-government protests that intensified over the weekend when demonstrators barged into the president’s official residence.

Prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, “invoking the powers of an acting president”, ordered a curfew in the Western Province, including Colombo, this morning.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was supposed to officially step down from the presidency on Wednesday, has still not formally resigned.

Ranil Wickremesinghe appointed acting president

10:11 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

After fleeing into exile, Gotabaya Rajapaksa has appointed prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as the acting president in his place, the speaker of the parliament said.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardhane announced that Mr Wickremesinghe was appointed the acting president in accordance with Article 37.1 of the Sri Lankan Constitution.

The parliament will elect a new president on 20 July, leading the way to form an all-party government.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled to Maldives in middle of night

10:05 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the cash-strapped nation in the middle of the night with his wife and bodyguards, just hours before he was set to resign following historic protests in the country that have seen his home being occupied.

Mr Rajapaksa left in a Sri Lankan military jet for Maldives’s Male city in the middle of the night on Wednesday, the country’s air force confirmed on Wednesday.

The president arrived in Male at around 3am local time. He was reportedly received by a Maldivian government representative at the Velana airport and taken to an undisclosed location under police escort.

Mr Rajapaksa is expected to be in the Maldives on transit before flying to the United Arab Emirates.

Stuti Mishra reports.

Sri Lanka president flees country on military jet in middle of night

Protest intensifies in Colombo

10:01 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Thousands of people poured into the streets of capital Colombo demanding prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s resignation after president Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country in the middle of the night on Tuesday.

Police fired tear gas and used water cannons to disperse the crowd as they tried to storm Mr Wickremesinghe’s Flower Road office on Wednesday.

However, demonstrators remained undeterred and continued their agitation.

Mr Wickremesinghe was appointed as the prime minister in May after the president’s brother Mahinda Rajapaksa was forced to step down amid the ongoing economic turmoil.

The president had hoped that the career politician would use his diplomacy and contacts to resuscitate Sri Lanka’s collapsed economy. But protest leaders claim the prime minister is allied to the Rajapaksas and have warned of a “decisive fight” if he does not resign.

09:35 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of the anti-government protest in Sri Lanka.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting