World Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa flees country ahead of...

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa flees country ahead of planned resignation

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July 12 (BP) — Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has fled the country on a military jet amid protests calling for his resignation.

Rajapaksa who had been in hiding after protesters stormed his residence on Saturday departed on a military jet, CNN and the BBC reported.

The departure comes hours before Rajapaksa was set to step down as president on Wednesday as more than 100,000 protesters took to the streets of the capital, Colombo, over his handling of an economic crisis that left millions of residents struggling to afford essentials including food, medicine and fuel.

Before fleeing the country, Rajapaksa was blocked from boarding a flight out of Sri Lanka at least twice on Monday after refusing to join a public immigration line at the Bandaranaike International Airport, CNN reported.

Rajapaksa’s brother, former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, also left the country, according to the BBC.

Airport officials also initially turned back Basil Rajapaksa as he attempted to board Emirates Flight 649 to Dubai from the main international airport outside of Colombo through a VIP entrance where he was blocked by security workers who told him he did not qualify, Bloomberg and The Washington Post reported.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would be next in line to lead the country in Rajapaksa’s absence, but he has also pledged to step down without providing a specific date.

On Monday, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, who is third in line to lead the country, said that parliament would hold presidential elections on July 20.

Opposition leaders met Sunday to discuss forming an all-party government after Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe resign.

Protesters, not convinced that the president and prime minister will follow through on their pledges to resign, vowed to occupy their residences until they are out of office.

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