New Delhi: Former Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa returned to the country from Thailand, nearly two months after he fled the island nation in the wake of a massive uprising against his government over its unprecedented economic crisis.
Rajapaksa, 73, fled Sri Lanka on July 13 after protesters stormed the President’s House in Colombo and several other state buildings in the capital.
The former premier arrived at the Bandaranaike International Airport amidst a heavy security presence, news agency PTI reported. He was received at the airport by several ministers and Parliamentarians of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party. The ex-president left the airport in a heavily-guarded motorcade.
Rajapaksa returned to Sri Lanka on a Singapore Airlines flight. He travelled from Thailand to Singapore to take the flight as there are no direct flights between Bangkok and Colombo, PTI reported sources as saying.
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Rajapaksa To Reside In State Bungalow
According to Daily Mirror Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa will be living in a state bungalow close to Wijerama Mawatha in Colombo and a large security contingency will be appointed to maintain security in the area.
As a former president, he is entitled to a government house, security, and other privileges.
Rajapaksa fled Sri Lanka to the Maldives on a Sri Lanka Airforce plane and then proceeded to Singapore, from where he sent in his resignation on July 14.
Later, he flew to Thailand, seeking temporary shelter. Thailand stated that Rajapaksa could stay in the country for 90 days because he is still a diplomatic passport holder.
He was not allowed to engage in political activities in Thailand. He was confined to a hotel and surrounded by security personnel.
Local media reports in Sri Lanka on August 19 quoted Rajapaksa-led Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam as saying that his party had requested President Ranil Wickremesinghe to facilitate Rajapaksa’s return and “ensure security and necessary facilities”.
After Rajapaksa was ousted, Sri Lanka’s parliament elected then-Acting President and six-time former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as the new Head of State.
Wickremesinghe has a mandate to serve out the rest of Rajapaksa’s term, which ends in November 2024.
Rajapaksa, an ex-military officer, became president in November 2019. He was forced to resign as months-long mass public demonstrations demanding his immediate resignation gained momentum and resulted in protestors storming the President’s House in Colombo.
Sri Lanka has been facing its worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948 which was triggered by a severe paucity of foreign exchange reserves.
The IMF on Thursday announced that it will provide Sri Lanka with a loan of about USD 2.9 billion over four years under a preliminary agreement to help the bankrupt island nation tide over its economic crisis and protect the livelihoods of the people.