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Sri Lanka: Nation awaits president’s resignation

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President Rajapaksa has boarded a Saudi plane in the Maldives that will take him to Singapore and then to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a Maldives government official told Reuters news agency.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Rajapaksa fled Sri Lanka early Wednesday as protesters were taking over government buildings to demand he resign.
A protest leader, Shabeer Mohamed, has told Al Jazeera that protesters are still considering whether to hand over the buildings they are occupying directly to the government or to Red Cross or any other neutral organization.

Mohamed confirmed that protest leaders are in agreement to hand over most of the occupied buildings, however, they have not decided whether they will hand over the presidential secretariat, which is next to main protest site, known as GotaGoGama.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said he is following the continuing political crisis in Sri Lanka.

“It is important that the root causes of the conflict and protestors’ grievances are addressed,” he tweeted. “I urge all party leaders to embrace the spirit of compromise for a peaceful and democratic transition.”
A protest leader and priest, Father Jeewantha Peiris, has told media that protesters will withdraw from occupied government buildings.

Peiris said the protesters would withdraw from the prime minister’s official residence, known as Temple Trees, the president’s residence and the presidential secretariat, which they have occupied since Saturday.

The acting president has imposed a curfew in Colombo from noon local time (6:30 GMT) to 5am on Friday (23:30 GMT Thursday), according to the Department of Government Information.

A previous curfew was lifted in Colombo at dawn, and did little to stop protests across the capital late on Wednesday. More protests were expected on Thursday.
Calm and confusion reign in Colombo as protesters occupying government buildings awaited the official resignation of President Rajapaksa.

Security forces remained stationed at the parliament, where protesters had gathered late on Wednesday.

Police said one person was killed and 84 were injured in clashes between riot police and protesters on Wednesday near the parliament building and the prime minister’s office, which protesters had breached hours earlier.

Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena told the media early on Thursday that he had not yet received the letter of resignation from the president, despite being told he would receive it by the end of Wednesday.
The Sri Lankan opposition is planning to move a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Wickremesinghe in parliament.

Hundreds of demonstrators continue to occupy the premier’s office demanding he quit, along with President Rajapaksa.
President Rajapaksa had repeatedly assured the speaker of parliament that he would step down on Wednesday, but his resignation letter had not arrived as of early Thursday, said an aide to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.

Rajapaksa’s decision on Wednesday to make his ally, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, the acting president, triggered more protests, with demonstrators storming the premier’s office demanding that he quit, too.
(Al Jazeera)

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