President has fled the country but protesters say they will not stop fighting until there is ‘freedom from corrupt leaders’

He had been elected on the back of a chauvinistic roar of ultranationalism. But in the end Sri Lanka’s strongman president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, was reduced to making a meek, humiliating escape under the cover of darkness, refusing to even address his own people before he fled.

As Sri Lankans awoke to the news on Wednesday morning that their beleaguered president had departed to the Maldives on an air force jet on the daye he had promised to finally resign after months of protests, the mood in the country was one partly of relief, and partly of rage.

“What an absolute coward,” said Sineth Hindle, 27. “Gotabaya filled his pockets with our money, bankrupted our county and then ran away. He must be held accountable.”