Sri Lankan President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa has fled the country amid widespread protests over his handling of the country’s worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.
Rajapaksa, his wife and two bodyguards flew on a Sri Lankan Air Force plane to Male, the capital of the Maldives, the Sri Lankan Air Force confirmed in a statement on Wednesday July 13.
“Under the provisions of the Constitution and on a request by the government, the Sri Lanka Air Force provided a plane early today to fly the president, his wife and two security officials to the Maldives,” the statement said.
‘Their passports were stamped and they boarded the special air force flight,’ an immigration official involved in the process said.
The president had promised at the weekend to resign on Wednesday and clear the way for a ‘peaceful transition of power’, after fleeing his official residence in Colombo just before tens of thousands of protesters stormed his official residence on Saturday, demanding he step down.
As president, Rajapaksa enjoys immunity from arrest, and he is believed to have wanted to go abroad before stepping down to avoid the possibility of being detained.
Rajapaksa, who helped end the country’s long-running civil war as defence secretary during his elder brother’s administration more than a decade ago, was elected president in 2019.