Sri Lankan president resigns via email after fleeing to Singapore

Earlier, Rajapaksa landed in Singapore on a flight from the Maldives after he fled his country following anti-government protests.

Abeiwardenena received an email announcing Rajapaksa’s resignation, the speaker’s office confirmed to CNN on Thursday, but added “we cannot take such an email at face value.”

“The legality of this must be established. It was handed over to the relevant authorities to check the same,” the office said. “Once we receive official confirmation and it is legally confirmed, we hope to make a statement about this tomorrow. [Friday] morning.”

The Abeivardenen’s office added that they expect to receive a paper copy of the letter, but that it will take longer as it will be sent from Singapore.

According to a senior government source, the letter was sent via email after Rajapaksa arrived in Singapore. The source, on condition of anonymity, provided details that were not made public by officials.

Singapore said Rajapaska was allowed to enter the country on a “private visit” but did not seek or receive asylum.

“It has been confirmed that Mr. Rajapaksa has been allowed to enter Singapore on a private visit. He did not ask for asylum and was not granted any kind of asylum either. Singapore generally does not grant asylum requests,” the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. .

Rajapaksa vowed to step down over the weekend after angry demonstrators broke into his official residence, took a dip in his pool and demanded an end to his family’s ruling dynasty. He left the Maldivian capital Male aboard a “Saudi flight”, a senior security source in Colombo told CNN.

CNN believes the source was referring to Saudi Arabian Flight 788, which took off from Male at 11:30 a.m. The flight landed in Singapore at 19:17 local time on Thursday, according to the Changi Airport website. CNN contacted Saudi Arabia, the flag carrier of Saudi Arabia, but received no response.

Rajapaksa was in the Maldives for one day after fleeing Sri Lanka early Wednesday morning – the same day he announced he was resigning.

But the lack of a formal resignation letter has raised questions about the intentions of the leader, who apparently emigrated to himself, appointing a prime minister as acting president after leaving his island nation.

Shortly after Rajapaksa left the country, protesters stormed the office of Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe, demanding that he removal. Wickremesinghe responded by proclaiming a nationwide curfew for the night.

A Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner carrying Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa arrives at Singapore's Changi Airport on July 14.

On Thursday, Wickremesinghe granted the Sri Lankan military special powers of arrest and instructed them to “use force” if necessary to quell protests across the country, army spokesman Brigadier General Nilantha Premaratne said in a televised address.

“In view of the escalation of acts of violence by protesters intent on damaging the military or public property, it is strongly recommended to immediately refrain from all forms of violence or be prepared to face the consequences, as military personnel have the legal authority to use force,” Premaratne said.

Sri Lanka is in chaos and its president has fled.  Here's what we know

Speaker Abeywardena said Thursday that Sri Lanka’s parliament will not meet until Rajapaksa formally tenders his resignation.

Parliament was previously expected to begin the process of choosing a new president on Saturday, with the goal of voting for a new leader by July 20.

This schedule is now on hold until Rajapaksa formally steps down from his post.

Many protesters vowed to continue demonstrating until both men resign.

By Thursday morning, as questions about Sri Lanka’s future swirled, the streets of the commercial capital of Colombo were quiet.

A lawyer representing the Popular Protest Movement said on Thursday that all occupied buildings, with the exception of the presidential secretariat, would be returned to the authorities.

“We want to confirm that this is a peaceful protest and we do not intend to resort to any form of violence,” Swastika Arulingam told reporters.

“It has always been and will always be a peaceful movement.”

Demonstrators carry the gate to the office of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe during protests in Colombo on Wednesday.

But everywhere there are signs that the country remains on the edge of the knife.

Amid severe fuel shortages, abandoned vehicles line the streets near gas stations. People can no longer drive to work, so they cycle instead. Some began to sleep in their cars.

Sri Lanka police said one police officer was seriously injured during the protests and was being treated in hospital. An army sergeant was also wounded, the department added.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday said he was following developments in Sri Lanka “very closely” and called for a “peaceful and democratic transition.”

“It is important that the root causes of the conflict and discontent of the protesters are addressed,” he wrote on Twitter. “I call on all party leaders to embrace the spirit of compromise for a peaceful and democratic transition.”

Rukshana Rizvi from Colombo, Sri Lanka contributed to this report.

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