COLOMBO, July 26 (IANS): Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the former Sri Lankan President who secretly fled the country on July 13 amid violent protests in the wake of the island nation’s ongoing economic crisis, is set to return, a Minister said on Tuesday.
When asked by reporters on Rajapaksa fleeing Sri Lanka, Media Minister Bandula Gunawardena refuted that the former leader was hiding in Singapore and said that he would return.
“I don’t agree that the former President is in hiding in Singapore because he had followed the official procedure and gone to Singapore obtaining an legitimate visa,” the Minister said.
“I was aware that he would return and the authorities in our country would take necessary precautions to prevent any harm to the former President.”
Meanwhile, G.L. Peiris, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), the party formed by the Rajapaksas to win the 2019 Presidential election, also said that Gotabaya Rajapaksa will return to the country and would be entitled to all the perks and privileges that are due for any former head of state.
In Sri Lanka, former Presidents and their family are entitled to a residence in Colombo, vehicles and security, including military and police, in addition to other perks and privileges.
According to media reports, Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s escape had been brokered by the Maldivian Parliament Speaker and former president Mohamed Nasheed.
Amid the unprecedented economic crisis, the worst since Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948, triggered severe shortages of food, fuel, medicines and other essentials.
In response, the public first took to the streets on March 31 and surrounding the former President’s private residence.
On April 2, the protesters occupied the entrance to the President’s office
And on July 9 despite heavy security presence in Colombo, anti-government protesters took over the President’s official house, his office and later the Prime Minister’s residence, triggering Gotabaya Rajapaksa to go into hiding and finally announced his resignation on July 14.
From the Maldives, he fled to Singapore.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was named acting President.
The International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP), a South Africa-based rights group, has filed a complaint with the Attorney General of Singapore demanding the arrest of Gotabaya Rajapaksa for war crimes allegedly committed during the final days of the over two-decades long Civil War.