Sri Lanka’s parliament has set to elect a new president on July 20, its speaker said on Monday, after protesters stormed the residences of the current president and PM, who have both offered to quit amid an economic meltdown.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is set to resign on Wednesday. His brothers and nephew earlier quit as ministers as Sri Lanka began running out of fuel, food and other essentials in the worst crisis since independence from Britain in 1948.
Parliament will reconvene on Friday and will vote to elect a new president five days later, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said in a statement.
“During the party leaders’ meeting held today it was agreed that this was essential to ensure a new all-party government is in place in accordance with the Constitution,” the statement added.
“The ruling party has said the prime minister and the Cabinet are ready to resign to appoint an all-party government.”
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, whose private home was set alight by protesters, has said he will step down. His office said Rajapaksa had confirmed his resignation plans to the prime minister, adding that the Cabinet would resign once a deal was reached to form an all-party government.
The political instability could damage negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a rescue package, the central bank governor told Reuters. Governor P Nandalal Weerasinghe signalled he would stay on in the job although he had said in May he could resign if there was no political stability in the island nation of 22 million.
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, meanwhile, called for a smooth transition of government and “sustainable solutions” to the economic crisis.
President near airport as exile rumours spread
Sri Lanka’s embattled president was flown to an airbase near the main international airport on Monday, officials said, raising speculation he will escape into exile abroad.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the presidential palace in Colombo under naval protection on Saturday. The 73-year-old leader was brought to the Katunayake airbase adjoining the country’s main international airport.
“He and his entourage were flown back to Colombo in two Bell 412 choppers,” an official added. There was no official word from the president’s office about his whereabouts, and several local media reports speculated he was set to leave for Dubai later on Monday.