Sri Lanka’s Parliament speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena leaves after a news conference, amid the country’s economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Friday.
Sri Lanka’s Parliament speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena leaves after a news conference, amid the country’s economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Friday. | Photo Credit: ALASDAIR PAL

Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has officially resigned, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced on Friday morning, ending days of uncertainty since the widely despised leader fled the island, dislodged by monumental public protests over a grave economic crisis. 

 Gotabaya, currently in Singapore, had sent his resignation letter by email on Thursday, but the Speaker’s office said its authenticity and legality had to be verified before it could be accepted. Tens of thousands of demonstrators stormed the President’s office and home last weekend, forcing the President to flee for his life, first to the Maldives and later to Singapore.   

Public fury against Gotabaya and his family members, who held prominent positions of power in the government, surged this year, as citizens suffocated amid crippling shortages and soaring living costs that, they said, his government failed to address.   

Gotabaya’s resignation makes way for a new President, to be elected through Parliament. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was appointed acting President. 

3-way contest for Presidency

A three-way contest seems likely among Mr. Wickremesinghe, former Rajapaksa loyalist Dullas Alahapperuma, and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa for the Presidency. The Parliament must convene within three days after the President’s resignation, schedule nominations, and subsequently elect a new President through secret ballot.  

Sri Lanka’s political opposition earlier slammed the delay in the President’s resignation. Opposition lawmaker and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Leader Rauff Hakeem said: “Someone who came to power on a platform of national security has fled the country for his own security, fearing his own people. This fate would not have befallen him if he had had the foresight to quit at the right time. He has disgraced himself and brought disgrace upon the whole nation.” Further, it was “distressing” that Gotabaya handed the reins to “another person despised by the people,” Hakeem said, referring to Wickremesinghe. “He is oblivious to ground realities… he, too, will be disgraced in the immediate future.” 

Colombo legislator and Tamil Progressive Alliance Leader Mano Ganesan said the Speaker must “immediately act” on the President’s letter and set off the constitutional process to elect a new President.  

Parliament to meet on Saturday

PTI adds: Sri Lanka's Parliament will meet on Saturday after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa officially resigned, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena has announced.

The new President will be elected within seven days in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, the Daily Mirror Lanka quoted Speaker Abeywardena as saying.

The Speaker said in terms of the Constitution, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will function in the capacity of the President overseeing functions, duties, and powers of the office of the President until the constitutional procedure of electing the new President is over, the report added.

On Saturday, Rajapaksa announced that he will step down on July 13 after thousands of protesters stormed his official residence, blaming him for the unprecedented economic crisis that has brought the country to its knees.

He, however, fled to the Maldives without resigning from his office. From the Maldives, he went to Singapore on Thursday.

Rajapaksa was the first person with a military background to be elected as Sri Lanka's President in 2019.

The Parliament will elect a new president within 30 days from one of its members, who will hold the office for the remaining two years of the current term.