Resignation letter of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who has repeatedly assured he will step down amid massive protests, has not arrived yet, officials say as Sri Lankans woke up to confusion and calm in the capital Colombo.

The premier has demanded the evacuation of state buildings and instructed security forces to do
The premier has demanded the evacuation of state buildings and instructed security forces to do "what is necessary to restore order". (Reuters)

Sri Lankans have waited for the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a day after he fled to the Maldives to escape a popular uprising against an economic crisis blamed on his government's mismanagement.

Rajapaksa was expected on Thursday to next head to Singapore though his final destination was not clear. 

His decision on Wednesday to make his ally Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe the acting president triggered more protests, with demonstrators storming the premier's office demanding that he quit too.

Rajapaksa had repeatedly assured the speaker of parliament that he would step down on Wednesday, but his resignation letter had not arrived as of early on Thursday, said an aide to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.

The main hospital in Colombo said about 85 people were admitted with injuries on Wednesday, with one man suffocating and dying after a tear gas attack at the premier's office.

An overnight curfew imposed by the acting president ended early on Thursday with no arrests, police said.

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

Protesters in talks to end occupation

Meanwhile, the country's anti-government demonstrators were in talks on Thursday to hand back official buildings they seized, protest representatives said.

A top Buddhist monk supporting the campaign called for the more than 200-years-old presidential palace to be handed back to authorities and ensure its valuable art and artefacts were preserved.

"This building is a national treasure and it should be protected," monk Omalpe Sobitha told reporters. "There must be a proper audit and the property given back to the state."

"There is a move to return the buildings back to the authorities," an activist involved in the #GotaGoHome campaign said.

Rajapaksa, his wife and two bodyguards left the main international airport near Colombo on an air force plane early on Wednesday. Maldives media said he was now waiting for a private jet to fly to Singapore.

Diplomatic sources said Rajapaksa's attempts to secure a visa to the United States had been turned down because he had renounced his US citizenship in 2019 before running for president.

Sri Lanka's parliament is expected to name a new full-time president next week, and a top ruling party source said that Wickremesinghe was the party's first choice, although no decision had been taken.

Protests against Sri Lanka's worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948 simmered for months and came to a head last weekend when hundreds of thousands of people took over government buildings in Colombo, blaming the Rajapaksas and their allies for the turmoil.

READ MORE: 'Change the system': How Sri Lankans descended on capital to protest

Source: TRTWorld and agencies