Lanka’s Ousted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa Returns Home

rajapaksa

Former Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa on September 3 returned to his country from Thailand, nearly two months after he fled following a massive uprising against his government over economic crisis in the Island Nation.

Rajapaksa arrived at the Bandaranaike International Airport around midnight Friday from Bangkok via Singapore. Several ministers and Parliamentarians of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party welcomed him at the airport. He is allotted a governmentowned house as a former president, at the center of the capital, Colombo.

GOTABAYA RAJAPAKSA; WHY FLED?

Rajapaksa fled the country on July 13 in the middle of the night, flying to the Maldives in a military aircraft. He fled after months-long mass public demonstrations demanding his immediate resignation on July 9 gained momentum after protesters stormed the President’s House in Colombo and several other state buildings in the capital.

From Maldives, he proceeded to Singapore, from where he sent in his resignation on July 14. He then flew to Thailand, seeking temporary shelter. Thailand had said that Rajapaksa could stay in the country for 90 days because he is still a diplomatic passport holder.

GOTABAYA RAJAPAKSA; NOT RIGHT TIME TO RETURN

Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was elected President after Rajapaksa fled the country, is reported to have said that it was not the right time for Rajapaksa to return. His presence could inflame political tensions in the country, which is grappling with the worst economic crisis in history, he said.

THE CRISIS

Sri Lanka is in the grips of its worst economic crisis for many months now. It triggered protests and unprecedented public rage that ultimately forced Rajapaksa and his brother, the former prime minister, to step down. The situation worsened because of pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, several people hold the Rajapaksa family as responsible for severely mismanaging the economy and tipping it into crisis.
The economic meltdown saw shortages of essentials such as fuel, medicine and cooking gas due to a severe shortage of foreign currency. The country’s total foreign debt amounts to more than $51 billion, of which $28 billion has to be repaid by 2027.

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