Ranil Wickremesinghe has been appointed to be acting president of Sri Lanka. Wickremesinghe, who was the former prime minister of the nation, acts on behalf of incumbent Gotabaya Rajapaksa who is overseas.
This was confirmed in an announcement by the parliamentary Speaker on Wednesday as thousands of protesters demanded both men step down.
“Because of his absence from the country, President Rajapaksa told me that he has appointed the prime minister to act as the president in line with the constitution,” Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana said in a brief televised statement.
Crisis-hit Sri Lanka declared an indefinite nationwide state of emergency on Wednesday, hours after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country, the prime minister’s office said.
“Since the president is out of the country, an emergency has been declared to deal with the situation in the country,” said Dinouk Colombage, spokesman for Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Police said they were also imposing an indefinite curfew across the Western Province, which includes the capital Colombo, to contain growing protests after Rajapaksa flew to the Maldives in a military aircraft.
Thousands of demonstrators had mobbed the premier’s office, prompting police to fire tear gas to hold them back from overrunning the compound.