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South Asia

Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to Resign on July 13, Confirms PMO

Sri Lanka's Opposition parties have decided to form an all-party interim government to tackle its worst economic crisis in seven decades.

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New Delhi: Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has informed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that he will resign as previously announced, the prime minister’s office said on Monday.

The parliamentary speaker earlier said Rajapaksa would resign on Wednesday, July 13, while Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also said he would step down to allow an all-party interim government to take over, according to the speaker of parliament, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.

Rajapaksa is understood to have officially informed Wickremesinghe of his decision to resign on this date, PTI has reported. It is still not clear where Rajapaksa is.

Leaders of Sri Lanka’s protest movement had said on Sunday they would occupy the residences of the president and prime minister until they finally quit office, the day after the two men agreed to resign leaving the country in political limbo.

Sri Lanka’s Opposition parties on Sunday decided to form an all-party interim government to tackle its worst economic crisis in seven decades, triggered by a severe shortage of foreign currency that has stalled imports of essentials such as fuel, food and medicines.

The financial meltdown developed after the COVID-19 pandemic hammered the tourism-reliant economy and slashed remittances from overseas workers.

“We agreed in principle to form a government of unity with all parties’ participation for an interim period,” Wimal Weerawansa of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party’s breakaway group said.

“This will be a government where all parties are represented,” he said.

Unprecedented takover

Thousands of protesters stormed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s home and office and the prime minister’s official residence on Saturday, as demonstrations over their inability to overcome a devastating economic crisis erupted into violence.

“The president has to resign, the prime minister has to resign and the government has to go,” playwright Ruwanthie de Chickera told a news conference at the main protest site in Colombo.

Flanked by other leaders helping coordinate the movement against the government, she said the crowds would not move out of the official residences of the president and prime minister until then.

Though calm had returned to the streets of Colombo on Sunday, throughout the day curious Sri Lankans roamed through the ransacked presidential palace. Members of the security forces, some with assault rifles, stood outside the compound but did not stop people from going in.

“I’ve never seen a place like this in my life,” 61-year-old handkerchief seller B.M. Chandrawathi, accompanied by her daughter and grandchildren, told Reuters as she tried out a plush sofa in a first-floor bedroom.

“They enjoyed super luxury while we suffered. We were hoodwinked. I wanted my kids and grandkids to see the luxurious lifestyles they were enjoying.”

Nearby, a group of young men lounged on a four-poster bed and others jostled for turns on a treadmill set up in front of large windows overlooking manicured lawns.

(With Reuters inputs)