President Gotabaya Rajapaksa stranded at Colombo Airport

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After fleeing the presidential palace besieged by protesters on Saturday, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was stranded at Colombo International Airport on Tuesday.

After fleeing under pressure from protesters, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was stranded on Tuesday 12 July at Colombo Airport. Official sources said that the disputed head of state, who promised to announce his resignation Wednesday, faced a humiliating confrontation with immigration officials who prevented him from going into exile abroad.

Immigration officials refused to enter Gotabaya Rajapaksa into the VIP lounge to stamp his passport, while the head of state wanted to avoid opening the terminal to the public, fearing the reaction of the residents.

>> To read: Sri Lanka besieged by economic and political crises


Since he has yet to resign, which he promised on Wednesday for a “peaceful transition of power”, Gotabaya Rajapaksa has presidential immunity. He may want to take the opportunity to seek refuge abroad.

The head of state and his wife spent last night at a military base near the international airport after missing four flights that could have taken them to the United Arab Emirates.

His younger brother, Basil, who resigned as finance minister in April, also missed his trip to Dubai after a similar tour with immigration.

Basil attempted to use a paid concierge for business travelers, but airport and immigration officials announced that the express service was discontinued with immediate effect.

“Some other passengers protested that Basil had boarded their plane,” an airport official told AFP. “The situation was tense, so he hurriedly left the airport.”

plane or boat

Bassel, who also holds US citizenship, was due to apply for a new passport after being left at the presidential palace when Rajapaksa’s family fled on Saturday in the face of an attack by thousands of protesters, according to a diplomatic source.

The Sri Lankan president left behind a bag full of documents and 17.85 million rupees (49,000 euros) in cash, which are now sealed.

The Office of the Presidency does not communicate about his status, but Gotabaya Rajapaksa is still the commander-in-chief of the armies, and therefore has military means.

According to a defense source, he then still had the option of taking a military ship to India or the Maldives.

If the head of state resigns as promised, then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will automatically be appointed as interim president until Parliament elects a deputy who will hold office until the end of the current term, i.e. in November 2024.

Challenge the interim president

However, Ranil Wickremesinghe is also being contested by protesters who have been camping in front of the presidential secretariat for more than three months to demand the president’s resignation due to the unprecedented economic crisis the country is going through.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa is accused of mismanaging the economy, which has resulted in the country, with a shortage of foreign exchange, being unable to finance essential imports for this population of 22 million.

Colombo defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt in April, and is in talks with the International Monetary Fund over a possible rescue plan.

Sri Lanka has almost exhausted its gasoline reserves. The government has ordered the closure of non-essential offices and schools to reduce travel and save fuel.

With Agence France-Presse and Reuters

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