Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa leaves Maldives for Singapore


Rajapaksa left the Maldives’ capital, Male, aboard a “Saudi flight,” the source said. Rajapaksa had been waiting to secure a “private jet” from a close relative in Colombo, but that had “not materialized,” the source added.

CNN believes the source was referring to Saudia Flight 788, which the source said departed Male at 11:30 am. The flight landed in Singapore at 7:17 p.m. local time on Thursday, according to the Changi Airport website.

Saudia is the flag carrier of Saudi Arabia.

CNN has contacted the Foreign Ministry of Singapore and Saudia, but has heard nothing.

Rajapaksa was in the Maldives for a day after fleeing Sri Lanka in the early hours of Wednesday – the same day he’d said he would resign.

But on Thursday, the Sri Lankan parliament speaker had not yet received a formal letter of resignation, which raised questions about the intentions of an apparently self-exiled leader who named the prime minister acting president during his absence from his island nation.

Shortly after Rajapaksa left the country, protesters stormed the office of acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe to protest his removal. Wickremesinghe responded with a nationwide curfew.

On Thursday, Wickremesinghe granted Sri Lanka’s armed forces special arrest powers 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 violent actions, protesters seeking to harm the armed forces or public property are urged to immediately refrain from all forms of violence or be prepared to face the consequences, as members of the armed forces are legitimately authorized to use force,” Premaratne said.

Many protesters have vowed to continue demonstrating until both men resign.

On Thursday morning, as questions swirled about Sri Lanka’s future, a calm descended on the streets of the commercial capital Colombo.

A lawyer for the People’s Protest Movement said on Thursday that all occupied buildings, except the presidential secretariat, will be returned to authorities.

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

“This has always been and will remain a peaceful movement.”

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

Amid a crippling shortage of fuel, abandoned vehicles line the streets at gas stations. People can no longer go to work by car, so they cycle. Some have gone to sleep in their cars.

Sri Lankan police said a police officer was seriously injured and treated in hospital during the protests. An army sergeant was also injured, it added.

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

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

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