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'Power of the people': massive protests as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa flees

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'Power of the people': massive protests as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa flees

Wickremesinghe, who is now acting President, has declared a state of emergency in the country and a curfew in the Western province

Sri Lanka's embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled to the Maldives on a military jet on Wednesday, hours before he was supposed to quit in the face of a public revolt against his government for mishandling the economy that has bankrupted the country.

From the Maldives, 73-year-old Rajapaksa appointed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as the acting President, citing Article 37(1) of the Constitution that allows a premier to "discharge the powers, duties and functions of the office of president" when the president is ill or "absent" from the country.

Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced that President Rajapaksa has appointed Prime Minister Wickremesinghe to act to perform his functions while he is abroad.

Abeywardena also said that President Rajapaksa has informed him over telephone that he will resign today as promised. He said the vote for the new president will take place on July 20.

Wickremesinghe, who is now acting President, has declared a state of emergency in the country and a curfew in the Western province has been imposed as protesters gathered near his office at Flower Road in Colombo.

"I am now imposing a State of Emergency and a Curfew," he said in a special televised statement adding that threats by fascists must be countered.

Wickremesinghe said he instructed the security forces to enforce the emergency and curfew to bring the situation to normalcy, adding that a committee comprising the heads of armed forces have been given the responsibility in doing so with zero political intervention.

He also pledged that he would step down as Prime Minister when an all-party government is formed.

He said he was alarmed by the informations received by the intelligence services.

"Despite the President leaving, and measures taken to elect a new President, some groups in the struggle have organised to take over the Prime Minister’s Office, and surround the Air Force Commander’s residence for providing an Air Force plane for the President to fly to the Maldives. They had also decided to surround the Navy Commander’s residence and Army Commander’s residence. These groups tried to obtain control of the country,” he added.

He ordered the security forces to arrest people acting in a riotous manner.

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