Anti-government protesters withdraw from presidential palace, the presidential secretariat and the prime minister’s office but vow to press on with their demands

The government has reimposed curfew that will be extended until Friday morning.
The government has reimposed curfew that will be extended until Friday morning. (Reuters)

Sri Lanka's anti-government demonstrators have said they are ending their occupation of official buildings, as they vowed to press on with their bid to bring down the president and prime minister in the face of a dire economic crisis. 

A spokeswoman for the protesters announced on Thursday: "We are peacefully withdrawing from the Presidential Palace, the Presidential Secretariat and the Prime Minister's Office with immediate effect, but will continue our struggle." 

Protesters overran President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's palace over the weekend, forcing him to flee to the Maldives on Wednesday, and also stormed the office of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

As president, Rajapaksa enjoys immunity from arrest, and he is believed to have gone abroad before stepping down in order to avoid the possibility of being detained.

Security sources in Sri Lanka's capital Colombo said his resignation letter has already been prepared.

"No sooner he gives the green light, the Speaker will issue it," a source said.

The government imposed a state of emergency on Wednesday that gives broader powers to the military and police and declared an immediate nationwide curfew.

The curfew was lifted at dawn on Thursday before being reimposed in the capital later in the day and extended until 5am Friday morning local time.

READ MORE: What’s next for crisis-ridden Sri Lanka?

Rajapaksa leaves Maldives

On Thursday, a Maldives government official said Rajapaksa boarded a flight of Saudia, formerly known as Saudi Arabian Airlines, bound for Singapore.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Rajapaksa is expected to look to stay in the city-state for some time, according to Sri Lankan security sources, before potentially moving to the United Arab Emirates.

Rajapaksa promised over the weekend that he would resign, but instead he has named his prime minister acting president in his absence, further incensing those who blame the government for the crisis.

READ MORE: Angry Sri Lankans wait for president to resign

Source: AFP