Escaped, Before Resigning Officially
Thousands of protesters, who stormed the official residence of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Colombo on July 9 (2022) demanding the resignation of his Government amid the ongoing economic crisis, reportedly came across a flight of stairs, as soon as they opened the door of a cupboard. The stairs took them to an iron door. According to protesters, there was probably a tunnel on the other side of that door. They believe that the President escaped from his palace through that tunnel. The Sri Lankan media have released various videos, showing protesters vandalising the President’s Palace. While some protesters took their bath in the swimming pool, others enjoyed food in the kitchen of the President’s official residence. Even some did catch a wink or two, on the President’s couch.
While roaming around the palace, some of the protesters opened the door of that fake cupboard, and it was then, they discovered those steps. Protesters are confident that the President left the palace through these stairs and the tunnel. They also set outgoing Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe‘s private home on fire later, on that eventful day. Although President Rajapaksa was scheduled to resign on July 13, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe resigned from his post, paving the way for an all-party Government to take charge of the tiny island nation. However, people are still staging protests in different parts of the South Asian nation. They have taken to the streets, as Sri Lanka is going through a financial crisis, thanks to China’s Debt-trap diplomacy.
Protesters have further claimed that they recovered millions of Sri Lankan rupees from the President’s Palace. Daily Mirror reported that protesters handed the recovered money over to the security guards. However, the local daily did not disclose the exact amount. In one of the videos posted on social media, protesters are seen counting the currency notes that they claimed were unearthed from the President’s mansion. Later on July 11, the Police handed millions of rupees in cash, left behind by the president, over to a court.
On July 9 morning, the Sri Lankan Police used tear gas and fired warning shots, but failed to stop the protesters from storming the palace. They, eventually, broke all the barricades to enter the official residence of their President. Incidentally, the President had left his palace before the protesters took control of his residence. As seen in another video, baggage was being unloaded on a naval ship. The Sri Lankan media initially speculated that Gotabaya Rajapaksa left the country on that vessel.
On July 14 morning, President Rajapaksa fled Colombo to avoid public outrage. Reports suggest that the President, who fled Sri Lanka with his wife, was heading to Singapore after spending a day in Male. They departed from the Maldives on Saudi Airline flight SV 788 to Singapore. According to sources close to the Rajapaksa family, the president may take shelter in Saudi Arabia. Earlier, the Sri Lankan President urged New Delhi to allow him to stay in India. However, the Government of India rejected his request, as the Narendra Modi Administration has started maintaining a distance with the Rajapaksas.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General António Guterres is following developments in Sri Lanka closely. In a statement, his spokesperson stressed that the Secretary General “stands in solidarity with the Sri Lankan people and calls on all stakeholders to engage in dialogue to ensure a smooth transition of government and to find sustainable solutions to the economic crisis“.
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