Gotabaya Rajapaksa to return to SL on Saturday

COLOMBA: Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s former President who fled the country on July 13 after anti-government protesters stormed his official residence, will return to the crisis-hit island nation on Saturday.

Following months of street protests over the country’s worst-ever economic crisis that led to the acute shortage of basic essentials like food, fuel, medicine and cooking gas, Rajapaska, who came to power with a thumping Sinhala Buddhist majority votes in November 2019, announced his resignation two-and-a-half years before the end of his term.

Rajapaksa secretly fled to the Maldives first with the intervention of former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed and then to Singapore.

Following the intervention of the Sri Lankan government, Rajapaksa who holds a diplomatic passport, flew to Thailand where he was allowed a 90-day stay.

Rajapaksa’s initial attempt to flee to the US where his son lives with his family, had failed after Washington refused to provide a visa.

A former duel citizen, Rajapaksa had to give up the US citizenship in order to run in the 2019 presidential election.

“The President should not have left the country but he could have given up the presidency while living in Sri Lanka,” Jagath Kumara, an MP from Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party, told the media on Friday while welcoming the return of the former leader.

“He is a citizen of this country and nobody can take the law into his or her hand,” the MP said when he was asked about the safety of the former President.

Incumbent President Ranil Wickremesinghe had earlier stated that it was not safe for Rajapaksa to return to the country.