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Sri Lanka accepts president's resignation after letter flown from Singapore

Sri Lanka’s parliament has accepted a letter of resignation from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The letter was flown from Singapore late on Thursday, and its authenticity has now been verified.

The embattled president had initially sent an email to confirm he was stepping down.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena says a new president will be appointed “quickly and successfully” – with the process set to be completed within seven days.

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Mr Rajapaksa’s resignation follows months of protests sparked by anger over an economic crisis in the country.

He fled Sri Lanka on Wednesday with protesters storming the president’s home and the official residence of the prime minister.

Prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has been sworn in as interim president until Mr Rajapaksa’s successor is elected.

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Mr Rajapaksa had initially fled to the Maldives on a military jet along with his wife and two security guards, but later travelled onwards to Singapore.

There were jubilant scenes in the capital Colombo after the resignation was confirmed – with crowds setting off firecrackers and dancing in the streets.

Next president to serve remainder of term

The new choice as president will serve the remainder of Mr Rajapaksa’s term, which ends in 2024.

That person could potentially appoint a new prime minister, who would then have to be approved by parliament.

The agenda for the weekend meeting will be decided on Friday, and voting for the next president in
parliament was scheduled for 20 July.

Mr Wickremesinghe will act as the interim president and he is also the first choice of the ruling party to take over full time, though no decision has been taken.

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Crisis sparked by shortages

Street protests against Sri Lanka’s economic crisis have simmered for months and came to a head last weekend when
hundreds of thousands of people took over government buildings in Colombo, blaming the Rajapaksa family and allies for runaway inflation, shortages of basic goods and corruption.

The family has denied the corruption allegations, but Mr Rajapaksa acknowledged that some of his policies contributed to the meltdown.

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What has led to Sri Lanka’s crisis, and how can it recover?

The rapid economic decline has been all the more shocking because before this crisis the economy had been expanding, with a growing, comfortable middle class.

Sri Lanka had begun preliminary discussions with the International Monetary Fund about a potential bailout loan, but these have been interrupted by the latest government chaos.

Mr Rajapaksa was part of one of Sri Lanka’s most powerful political families in the country’s post-independence history.

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