President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has informed the Speaker of Parliament that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has been appointed as the Acting President of Sri Lanka.
Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced this in a brief statement made to the media today (13).
“I was informed that under article 37 (1) of the Constitution, as His Excellency the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is away from the country, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has been appointed to cover the duties and function of that position,” he said.
Earlier today, the PM’s Office said that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, as the Acting President, has ordered to impose curfew in the Western Province with immediate effect and to impose emergency law island-wide.
Wickremesinghe has also ordered the security forces to arrest those engaging in unruly behaviour and to take into custody the vehicles they travel in, the PM’s Office said.
The move came as thousands of angry protesters gathered outside the PM’s office, and several other locations in Colombo this morning.
“Since the president is out of the country, an emergency has been declared to deal with the situation in the country,” Dinouk Colombage, spokesman for Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, told AFP.
Thousands of demonstrators had mobbed the premier’s office, prompting police to fire tear gas to hold them back from overrunning the compound.
“There are ongoing protests outside the prime minister’s office in Colombo and we need the curfew to contain the situation,” a senior police officer told AFP.
Asked how Mr. Wickremesinghe could invoke “powers of an acting President” when Mr. Gotabaya is still in office, PM’s spokesman Dinouk Colombage had told The Hindu: “The legal explanation will follow. We want to get the situation under control first.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the Sri Lankan Air Force said that under the provisions of the Constitution and on a request by the government it provided a plane to fly the president, his wife and two security officials to the Maldives.
“On government request and in terms of powers available to a President under the Constitution, with complete approval from the ministry of defence, the President, his wife and two security officials were provided a Sri Lanka Air Force plane to depart from the Katunayake international airport for the Maldives in the early hours of July 13,” an official announced.
On Saturday, Rajapaksa announced that he would resign on July 13 after thousands of protestors stormed his official residence and office.