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Fleeing the Sri Lankan President’s money, the battle for the successor begins

#Fleeing #Sri #Lankan #Presidents #money #battle #successor #begins

Millions of rupees in cash left behind by the Sri Lankan President while fleeing his official residence were handed over to a court on Monday after being turned in by protesters, police said, as a follow-up battle began.

Protesters discovered 17.85 million rupees (about US$50,000) in fresh new banknotes but handed them over to police after the storming of the presidential palace on Saturday.

“The cash was taken by the police and will be presented in court today,” said a police spokesman.

Official sources said a suitcase full of documents was also left at the stately mansion.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa took up residence in the two-century-old building after being evicted from his private home on March 31 when protesters tried to storm it.

The 73-year-old leader escaped through a back door under escort from naval personnel and was taken by boat to the northeast of the island, official sources told AFP.

His exact whereabouts were not known as of Monday morning, but Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office said Rajapaksa had officially informed him of his intention to step down, without giving a date.

Wickremesinghe, 73, will automatically become acting president if Rajapaksa resigns until parliament elects an MP to remain in office until November 2024.

But Wickremesinghe has himself announced his willingness to resign if consensus is reached on forming a unity government.

Rajapaksa vowed over the weekend to step down on Wednesday, paving the way for a “peaceful transition,” according to Parliament Speaker Mahinda Abeywardana.

The follow-up process could take anywhere from three days – the minimum time for convening parliament – ​​to a maximum of 30 days, which the law allows.

The main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) party was locked in talks with smaller political groups Monday to secure support for its leader Sajith Premadasa.

An SJB official said they had reached a tentative agreement with dissidents in Rajapaksa’s SLPP to support 55-year-old Premadasa, the son of a former president, for the top post while a SLPP member takes over as prime minister.

Former Rajapaksa loyalist Dullas Alahapperuma, 63, a former media minister, has been proposed as the new prime minister, an SJB MP involved in the talks told AFP.

Five ministers resigned over the weekend and Wickremesinghe’s office said the cabinet agreed on Monday to resign en masse once an “all-party government” agreement was reached.

-demonstrators stop-

As of Monday, tens of thousands were still occupying the Presidential Palace, the nearby seaside Presidential Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s official residence, Temple Trees.

“The demand is very clear, people are still demanding the resignation (of Rajapaksa) and his full resignation in a written confirmation,” said protester Dela Peiris.

“Hopefully in the coming days we will have that resignation from the Government including the Prime Minister and the President.”

Protesters seized Rajapaksa’s seafront office shortly after they overran the palace on Saturday and have vowed to remain there until he actually leaves office.

The prime minister’s private home in Colombo was also set on fire on Saturday night.

Demonstrators have camped outside the president’s office for over three months, demanding his resignation amid the country’s unprecedented economic crisis.

Rajapaksa is accused of running the economy so badly that the country has run out of foreign exchange to finance even its most important imports, causing dire hardships for the 22 million people.

Wickremesinghe, an opposition MP, was appointed prime minister in May to try to steer the country out of its economic crisis – the sixth time he has been appointed to the post.

Sri Lanka defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt in April and is in talks with the IMF over a possible bailout.

Sri Lanka has nearly depleted its already tight fuel supplies. The government has ordered the closure of non-essential offices and schools to reduce commuting and save fuel.

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