Sri Lanka parliament speaker accepts Rajapaksa’s resignation

Sri Lanka’s Parliament speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena leaves after a news conference, amid the country’s economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka July 15, 2022. REUTERS/Alasdair Pal

COLOMBO — The speaker of parliament in crisis-hit Sri Lanka has accepted a resignation letter from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, having verified its authenticity after it was flown from Singapore late on Thursday, he told reporters.

“From this point, we will move to constitutionally appoint a new president,” the speaker, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, said on Friday.

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Rajapaksa landed in Singapore on Thursday, July 14, having fled to the Maldives early on Wednesday on a military jet along with his wife and two security guards. Protesters stormed his residence and office last Saturday.

“We are so happy today that he resigned and we feel that when we, the people, come together, we can do everything,” said Arunanandan, 34, a school teacher who had been camping at the main protest site opposite the presidential secretariat for the past three months.

“We are the real power in this country.”

The news of Rajapaksa’s resignation, first sent by e-mail to the speaker before a hard copy was delivered, triggered jubilation in Sri Lanka’s main city Colombo late on Thursday.

READ: Sri Lankan president sends resignation letter after fleeing to Singapore

Crowds set off firecrackers, shouted slogans, and danced ecstatically at the Gota Go Gama protest site, named mockingly after Rajapaksa’s first name.

Speaker Abeywardena said he hoped to complete the process of selecting a new president in seven days and that parliament will reconvene on Saturday. The agenda for the weekend meeting will be decided on Friday, and voting for the next president in parliament was scheduled for July 20.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will act as the interim president and he is also the first choice of the ruling party to take over full time, though no decision has been taken. The opposition’s nominee is Sajith Premadasa, while the potential dark horse is senior lawmaker Dullas Alahapperuma.

Street protests against Sri Lanka’s economic crisis have simmered for months and came to a head last weekend when hundreds of thousands of people took over government buildings in Colombo, blaming the Rajapaksa family and allies for runaway inflation, shortages of basic goods, and corruption.

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READ: Sri Lanka declares state of emergency as president flees

Serpentine queues outside fuel pumps have become common, while the government has closed schools and enforced work-from-home for office workers to conserve fuel. The country of 22 million has nearly run out of dollars for imports and defaulted on foreign loans.

Headline inflation hit 54.6% last month and the central bank has warned that it could rise to 70% in the coming months.