Sri Lanka’s parliamentary speaker retracts statement, says president still in the country

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is still in the Asian country despite earlier reports by Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena that the head of state had fled the island.

In declarations to the Asian news agency ANI, Abeywardena admitted having been mistaken during his interview with the British radio and television BBC, where he had affirmed that Rajapaksa was on board a warship that had left Sri Lankan territorial waters.

The Speaker of Parliament has thus confirmed that both Rajapaksa and his possible replacement, the current Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, are in Sri Lankan territory.

Rajapaksa has confirmed this Monday to Wickremesinghe that he will submit his resignation from office, predictably on Wednesday, at a time when the country is the scene of protests due to rising prices and lack of food, medicine and fuel.

Now, the Sri Lankan Parliament must elect a new president by July 20, as announced by one of the government ministers Prasanna Ranatunga and reported by the news portal NewsWire, although it is true that Wickremesinghe must be sworn in as president of the country for a limited period.

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Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has assured that he will be responsible for “safeguarding” the country’s Constitution so that “no one can go beyond it and no one can force or dictate Parliament from outside.”

“One must listen to the people, but one must act according to the Constitution. Sri Lanka needs an all-party government. We have to work for it,” the head of government has asserted in a statement.

Wickremesinghe also confirmed that this Monday he had to leave his official residence, following the advice of the Police, after it was learned that a group of demonstrators returning from the protests were heading towards his home. The Prime Minister has denounced that his house has been set on fire and that “some valuable goods” such as books and paintings from the colonial era have been lost.

In this context, the island nation is immersed in what is its worst economic crisis since it threw off the colonial yoke of the United Kingdom in 1948. The protests have led to the storming of the president’s official residence.

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In fact, this Monday long queues are being recorded in the streets of the capital, Colombo, where citizens are waiting to visit the now abandoned Rajapaksa’s home, as seen in videos posted on social networks by local and international media.

Later Monday, Wickremesinghe is scheduled to meet with his cabinet before he holds a meeting with opposition leaders. Both meetings could be attended by video conference by the still president Rajapaksa.

The popular revolution that erupted Saturday in Sri Lanka has thus forced the final downfall of the Rajapaksa family, after Gotabaya forced his brother Mahinda out of office in a superfluous attempt to quell the protests.

Mahinda’s successor, Ranil Wickremesinghe, a former rival of Rajapaksa and the last option of the president to solve the crisis, resigned hours earlier to give way to a government whose main function will be to call new elections.

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