According to an announcement from the speaker’s office on Thursday, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa tendered his resignation in an email to parliamentary speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardenena.
Rajapaksa arrived in Singapore on a flight from the Maldives, where he had fled following anti-government protests.
The speaker’s office confirmed to CNN Thursday that Abeywardena received an email containing Rajapaksa’s resignation, but added that “we cannot accept such an email at face value.”
“The legality of it must be determined.” It has been shared with the appropriate authorities for verification,” the office stated. “We hope to make a statement about it tomorrow [Friday] morning once we have official confirmation and it has been legally verified.”
Abeywardena’s office added that a paper copy of the letter is expected, but that it will take longer because it will be sent from Singapore.
According to a senior government official, the letter was emailed shortly after Rajapaksa arrived in Singapore.
The source spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to provide information that officials have not made public.
Rajapaska was allowed to enter the country on a “private visit,” according to Singapore, but he did not seek or receive asylum.
“It has been confirmed that Mr. Rajapaksa has been granted permission to enter Singapore on a private visit.” He has not applied for asylum and has not been granted any. “In general, Singapore does not grant asylum requests,” the Singapore Foreign Ministry stated.
Rajapaksa announced his resignation over the weekend after angry protesters stormed his official residence, swam in his pool, and demanded the end of his family’s ruling dynasty. A high-ranking security source in Colombo told CNN that he left the Maldivian capital of Malé on a “Saudi flight.”
CNN believes the source was referring to Saudia flight 788, which departed Malé at 11:30 a.m. According to the Changi Airport website, the flight arrived in Singapore at 7:17 p.m. local time on Thursday. CNN contacted Saudia, the country’s flag carrier, but received no response.
Rajapaksa had been in the Maldives for a day after fleeing Sri Lanka in the early hours of Wednesday, the same day he announced his resignation.
The lack of a formal resignation letter, however, raised concerns about the intentions of an apparent self-exiled leader who appointed the prime minister as acting president after leaving his island nation.
Protesters stormed Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office shortly after Rajapaksa left the country, demanding his removal. Wickremesinghe reacted by declaring a nationwide curfew for the night.
On July 14, a Saudia airline Boeing 787 Dreamliner carrying Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa arrives at Singapore’s Changi Airport.
Wickremesinghe granted special arrest powers to Sri Lanka’s armed forces on Thursday, instructing them to “exercise force” if necessary to dispel protests across the country, army spokesman Brigadier Nilantha Premaratne said in a televised address.
“In light of the escalation of violent acts, protesters intent on causing harm to the armed forces or public property are urged to desist from all forms of violence immediately or face consequences, as members of the armed forces are legitimately empowered to use force,” Premaratne said.
Speaker Abeywardena said Thursday that the Sri Lankan parliament will not reconvene until Rajapaksa formally submits his resignation letter.
Previously, parliament was expected to begin the process of selecting a new president on Saturday, with a vote on a new leader scheduled for July 20.
That timeline is now on hold until Rajapaksa formally resigns.
Many protesters have vowed to keep marching until both men step down.
As questions swirled about Sri Lanka’s future on Thursday morning, a calm had descended on the streets of the commercial capital Colombo.
According to a lawyer representing the People’s Protest Movement, all occupied buildings, with the exception of the Presidential Secretariat, will be returned to authorities on Thursday.
“We want to emphasize that this is a peaceful protest and that we have no intention of resorting to violence,” Swasthika Arulingam told reporters.
“This has always been and will always remain a peaceful movement.”
During protests in Colombo on Wednesday, demonstrators carry the gate to Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office.
But there are signs that the country is still on the verge of collapse.
Amid crippling shortages of fuel, abandoned vehicles line the streets near gas stations. People are no longer able to drive to work, so they cycle instead. Some have taken to sleeping in their cars. The Sri Lankan police force said one police officer had been seriously injured during the protests and was receiving treatment in hospital.
An army sergeant had also been injured, it added. United Nations Secretary General António Guterres on Thursday said he was following the events in Sri Lanka “very closely” and called for a “peaceful and democratic transition.”
“It is important that the root causes of the conflict and protesters’ grievances are addressed,” he wrote on Twitter. “I urge all party leaders to embrace the spirit of compromise for a peaceful and democratic transition.”