The disputed Sri Lankan president was stranded at Colombo airport on Tuesday (July 12) after a humiliating confrontation with immigration officials to prevent him from going into exile abroad, official sources said.
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.
Having not yet resigned, which he promised on Wednesday for”Peaceful transfer of powerGotabaya Rajapaksa enjoys 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 against Basil boarding the planeAn airport official told AFP. “The situation was tense, so he hurriedly left the airportBassel, 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.
“Out by the sea”
According to a high-ranking defense source, Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s advisors are discussing the escape of the president and his entourage aboard a patrol ship. 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.
A navy ship had already been used to transport the head of state on Saturday from the besieged presidential palace to the northeastern port of Trincomalee. Gotabaya Rajapaksa then joined Colombo International Airport by helicopter on Monday. “The best option now is to go out by the seaDefense official said. “He can go to the Maldives or India and fly to Dubai“.
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 moving 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. November 2024. However, Ranil Wickremesinghe is also being challenged by protesters who have been camping in front of the presidential secretariat for more than From three months to demand the resignation of the president due to the unprecedented economic crisis that 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.