The disputed president of Sri Lanka was stranded at Colombo airport on Tuesday (July 12) after a humiliating confrontation with immigration officials who prevented him from going into exile abroad, according to official sources.
Immigration officials denied Gotabaya Rajapaksa access to the VIP lounge to have her passport stamped, while the head of state wanted to avoid opening the terminal to the public, fearing the reaction of the population.
Not having resigned yet, which he promised to do on Wednesday for a “peaceful passage of powerGotabaya Rajapaksa enjoys presidential immunity. He may want to take the opportunity to find refuge abroad. The head of state and his wife spent the previous 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 stepped down as finance minister in April, also missed his flight to Dubai after a similar confrontation with immigration. Basil tried to use a paid concierge service for business travelers, but airport and immigration staff announced that the expedited service was discontinued effective immediately.
“Some other passengers protested against Basil’s boarding their flight“An airport official told AFP. “It was a tense situation, so he left the airport quicklyBasil, who also has US citizenship, was expected to apply for a new passport after leaving his in the presidential palace when the Rajapaksa family fled Saturday in the face of an onslaught of thousands of protesters, according to a diplomatic source.
“Exit by sea”
According to a leading defense source, Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s advisers are discussing an escape by the president and his entourage aboard a patrol ship. The bureau does not report on his situation, but Gotabaya Rajapaksa remains the commander-in-chief of the armies, thus having military means.
A navy ship had already been used on Saturday to transfer the head of state from the presidential palace besieged by protesters to the port of Trincomalee in the north-east of the country. Then, Gotabaya Rajapaksa joined Colombo International Airport by helicopter on Monday. “The best option now is to go by seasaid the defense officer. “He could go to the Maldives or India and fly to Dubai“.
The president of Sri Lanka left a suitcase full of documents and 17.85 million rupees (49 thousand euros) in cash, now under seal. The bureau does not report on his situation, but Gotabaya Rajapaksa remains the commander-in-chief of the armies, thus having military means. So he still has the option of taking a military ship to India or the Maldives, according to a defense source.
If the head of state resigns as promised, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will automatically be appointed interim president until the parliament elects a member of parliament who will remain in office until the end of the current legislature, ie November 2024. Ranil Wickremesinghe too however, it is challenged by demonstrators who have been camping in front of the Presidential Secretariat for more than three months to ask for the resignation of the president due to the unprecedented economic crisis that the country is experiencing.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa is accused of mismanaging the economy, leading to the country’s inability, in the absence of foreign currency, to finance the most essential imports for this population of 22 million. Colombo defaults on its $ 51 billion foreign debt in April and is in talks with the IMF about a possible bailout.
Sri Lanka has almost run out of its gasoline reserves. The government has ordered the closure of non-essential offices and schools to reduce travel and save fuel.
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