Rajapaksa seeks safety guarantee from Colombo

Rajapaksa seeks safety guarantee from Colombo

Deposed former Sri Lankan president now in Thailand but hopes to leave within days

Students take part in a demonstration in Colombo on Friday against President Ranil Wickremesinghe as well as his predecessor and members of the Rajapaksa family, who they blame for the country’s economic crisis. (AFP Photo)
Students take part in a demonstration in Colombo on Friday against President Ranil Wickremesinghe as well as his predecessor and members of the Rajapaksa family, who they blame for the country’s economic crisis. (AFP Photo)

Deposed former Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa is seeking to return home from his exile in Thailand and has asked his successor to guarantee his safety, his party said on Friday.

Mr Rajapaksa fled the island last month after a huge crowd stormed his house, capping months of public anger over the country’s unprecedented economic crisis.

The 73-year-old was forced to flee his official residence with the help of the military and eventually issued his resignation from Singapore.

He flew to Bangkok on Aug 11, the same day that his visa in Singapore expired. Thai authorities have warned him not to venture out of his hotel for his own safety, keeping him virtually under hotel arrest.

A Sri Lankan media outlet reported earlier that Mr Rajapaksa was expected to leave Thailand as soon as this coming Wednesday.

Mr Rajapaksa’s youngest brother Basil, the former finance minister, met with President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday and requested protection to allow his return, their party said in a statement.

“Basil Rajapaksa requested the president to make arrangements for the former president to return home,” the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party said in a statement.

“The main demand of the SLPP is the safety and security of the former president.”

The SLPP has an overwhelming majority in parliament and Mr Wickremesinghe’s administration relies on the party’s lawmakers to govern.

There was no immediate reaction from the new government regarding the request.

Mr Rajapaksa came to power promising “vistas of prosperity and splendour” in 2019 but saw his popularity plummet as the country’s 22 million people endured fuel shortages, blackouts and runaway inflation.

After resigning halfway through his five-year term, he has lost his presidential immunity and could face prosecution for corruption.

Several cases before the Sri Lankan courts stalled after he became president in 2019 but could be revived if he returns.

Sri Lanka’s constitution guarantees bodyguards, a vehicle and housing for former presidents.


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