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Gotabaya Rajapaksa formally resigns after fleeing to Singapore

Gotabaya Rajapaksa has resigned as Sri Lanka’s President after he fled the island amidst mass protests demanding his resignation. 

The resignation letter was reportedly sent by email to the speaker of parliament. The resignation will be formally announced on Friday.

His resignation came as Singapore has confirmed thatthe war crimes accused president who is trying to flee the island, landed at Changi airport from the Maldives today. Singapore’s foreign ministry released a statement just moments after Gotabaya Rajapaksa reportedly landed, stating that he is on a “private visit”.

“He has not asked for asylum and neither has he been granted any asylum,” the statement added. “Singapore generally does not grant requests for asylum.”

Journalists had outside Singapore’s Changi airport, with reports that Rajapaksa landed in the country.

According to Reuters,

A passenger on the flight, who declined to be named, told Reuters that Rajapaksa was met by a group of security guards and was seen leaving the airport VIP area in a convoy of black vehicles.

Airline staff on the flight told Reuters the president, dressed in black, flew business class with his wife and two bodyguards, describing him as "quiet" and "friendly".

Gotabaya Rajapaksa was reportedly on Saudi Arabian Airlines flight SV788 from Male to Singapore. The plane landed shortly at 7.17 PM local time. Bloomberg reported the flight was being tracked by 5,000 users according to data from Flightradar24.com, making it the most tracked flight in the world at the time.

Read more in our feature: Catch me if you can - Gotabaya Rajapaksa is on the move and headed to Singapore

Rajapaksa left the Maldives, where he fled to earlier this week and was reportedly escorted to the plane by special forces of Maldives Defence Force.

The 73-year-old former defence secretary was reportedly trying to flee Sri Lankan before he is scheduled to step down and lose immunity as a head of state that protects him from prosecution for a range of crimes. He reportedly fears being arrested and placed on trial where he could face prosecution for his financial crimes, as well as his genocide of Tamils.

Though the AFP quoted Sri Lankan security sources as stating he is expected to look to stay in the city-state for some time before potentially moving to the United Arab Emirates, the BBC's Tessa Wong noted "Mr Rajapaksa is accused of allowing the deaths of tens of thousands of Tamil civilians during the civil war while he was defence minister.... many Tamil Singaporeans would be furious by his presence".

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