President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled Sri Lanka on Wednesday, hours before he was scheduled to resign following widespread protests over his handling of a catastrophic economic crisis.
According to a government source and a close associate of Rajapaksa, he was in Male, the capital city of the Maldives. The president would likely travel to another Asian nation from there, a government source disclosed.
The Sri Lankan Air Force revealed in a statement that Rajapaksa, his wife, and two bodyguards departed the main international airport outside Colombo aboard a Sri Lankan Air Force plane.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters seized key government facilities in Colombo over the weekend, accusing the Rajapaksas and their allies for rampant inflation, corruption, and a serious fuel and medical shortage.
The departure of the president brings an end to the control of the powerful Rajapaksa dynasty, which has dominated South Asian politics for the past 20 years.
The president's brothers, former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa, are still in Sri Lanka, according to government sources and aides.
As word of the president's flight spread, tens of thousands of people gathered at the major demonstration site in Colombo, screaming "Gota thief, Gota thief."
After protestors stormed his and the prime minister's official houses, Rajapaksa was slated to resign as president on Wednesday to pave room for a unity administration. Since Friday, the president has not been seen in public.
Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, the speaker of Sri Lanka's parliament, told ANI, a Reuters affiliate, that he had not yet received any contact from Rajapaksa.
A source within the ruling party stated that the president would submit his resignation letter later on Wednesday.
This would make Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe the interim president, despite his offer to resign. Constitutionally, if he does, the speaker will serve as acting president until a new president is elected.
If Wickremesinghe does not resign by Wednesday afternoon, protest leaders have issued a statement threatening a "decisive battle."
Buddhi Prabodha Karunaratne, one of the organizers of recent protests, said, "If we don't hear of the president and prime minister's resignation by the evening, we may have to regroup and seize parliament or another government facility."
"We are vehemently opposed to the Gota-Ranil administration. Both must leave," Karunaratne said.