Sri Lanka PM declares state of emergency, curfew

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COLOMBO, JUL 13: Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has declared a state of emergency in his role as the acting president, after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled to the Maldives on Wednesday, leading to more protests amid an economic crisis.

“The prime minister as acting president has declared a state of emergency (countrywide) and imposed a curfew in the western province,” Wickremesinghe’s media secretary, Dinouk Colombage.

The curfew comes into effect immediately.

As news of the president’s flight spread, thousands of people gathered at the main protest site in Colombo chanting “Gota thief, Gota thief”, referring to him by a nickname.

Hundreds of others stormed the prime minister’s office, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The president’s flight brings an end to the rule of the powerful Rajapaksa clan that has dominated politics in the South Asian country for the last two decades.

Protests against the economic crisis have simmered for months and came to a head last weekend when hundreds of thousands of people took over key government buildings in Colombo, blaming the Rajapaksas and their allies for runaway inflation, corruption and a severe lack of fuel and medicines.

Government sources and aides said the president’s brothers, former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa, were still in Sri Lanka.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, his wife and two bodyguards left the main international airport near Colombo aboard a Sri Lankan Air Force plane early on Wednesday, the air force said in a statement.

A government source and a person close to Rajapaksa said he was in Male, the capital of the Maldives. The president would most likely proceed to another Asian country from there, the government source said.

Rajapaksa was due to step down as president on Wednesday to make way for a unity government after protesters stormed his and the prime minister’s official residences.