Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister calls state of emergency as President flees to Maldives

The content originally appeared on: CNN

(CNN)Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has left the country, according to a high ranking security official, shortly before he was due to formally step down.

Rajapaksa and his wife flew to Mal?, in the Maldives, on an AN32 troop transport plane from the Sri Lanka Air Force, the official said.
Local air traffic control refused the plane’s request to land until an intervention by the Speaker of Maldivian Parliament Majlis and former President, Mohamed Nasheed, according to the official. CNN has reached out to Nasheed for comment.
The embattled Rajapaksa was previously blocked from departing Sri Lanka at least twice on Monday, after refusing to join a public immigration queue at the Bandaranaike International Airport, a high-ranking military source told CNN.
Aides for Rajapaksa arrived at the airport in Colombo on Monday with 15 passports belonging to the president and members of his family — including First Lady Ioma Rajapaksa — who had booked seats on a Sri Lankan Airlines flight leaving for Dubai at 6:25 p.m. local time, according to the military source.
But immigration officers declined to process the passports given to them by presidential aides, as Rajapaksa and his family were not physically present for cross checks. Eventually, the flight departed without the president and his family on board, the source added.
Another attempt was made to get the family on an Etihad flight scheduled to leave Colombo for Abu Dhabi at 9:20 p.m. local, according to the source, however the same problem occurred, as the Rajapaksas refused to join the public immigration queue for the flight.
In both instances, the Rajapaksa family was in a nearby airport lounge, waiting for confirmation they could board without queuing among members of the public, the source said.
On Tuesday, a video released by a former police officer claimed that Rajapaksa was staying in a private house belonging to a top Air Force Commander. The Sri Lanka Air Force has denied the claim, describing it as propaganda intended to tarnish the image of the corps and its chief.

Forced to resign

Rajapaksa’s planned resignation on Wednesday — which follows months of protests over the country’s crippling economic crisis — would leave him without presidential immunity and potentially exposed to a raft of legal charges in the country.
He has been accused of high-level corruption and economic mismanagement, which ultimately bankrupted the country and triggered its worst financial crisis since independence.
He agreed to step down from his office on Saturday, after more than 100,000 people massed outside his residence and called for his resignation. Some of the protesters then broke into the property and splashed around in his swimming pool.
Striking images shared on social media showed demonstrators singing protest songs and chanting slogans calling for Rajapaksa to resign. Other photos showed groups of demonstrators setting up barbecue pits to grill and cook food.