Deposed Sri Lankan chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa returns from exile

Deposed Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa returned to the nation on Friday, an airport official mentioned, seven weeks after he fled amid the island’s worst financial disaster.

Rajapaksa was adorned with flowers by a welcoming group of ministers and politicians as he disembarked on the predominant worldwide airport, the official added — a reference to his enduring affect within the Indian Ocean nation that critics say has wreaked havoc.

“There was a rush from authorities politicians to honor him as he obtained off the airplane,” the official instructed AFP.

Rajapaksa fled Sri Lanka below navy escort in mid-July after unarmed mobs stormed his official residence, following months of indignant demonstrations that blamed him for the nation’s unprecedented financial disaster.

He despatched his resignation from Singapore earlier than touring to Thailand, the place he petitioned his successor, Ranil Wickremesinghe, to facilitate his return.

The 73-year-old chief arrived from Bangkok by way of Singapore on a industrial flight, ending his 52-day self-imposed exile.

“He was dwelling in a Thai resort as a de facto prisoner and was desirous to return,” a protection official, who requested to not be named, instructed AFP.

“We’ve got simply arrange a brand new safety division to guard him after he returns,” the official added.

“The unit consists of components of the military and police commandos,” he added.

Opposition politicians accused Wickremesinghe of defending the as soon as highly effective Rajapaksa household.

Sri Lanka’s structure ensures bodyguards, a automotive and housing for former presidents, together with Gotabaya and his older brother and fellow ex-president Mahinda.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation ended his presidential immunity, and rights activists mentioned they’d push for his arrest on a number of costs, together with his alleged position within the 2009 assassination of outstanding newspaper editor Lasanta Wickrematong.

“We welcome his resolution to return in order that we will deliver him to justice for the crimes he dedicated,” mentioned Tharindo Jayawardana, a spokesperson for the Younger Journalists Affiliation of Sri Lanka.

Rajapaksa additionally faces costs in a California court docket over the killing of Wickrematung and the torture of Tamil prisoners on the finish of the island’s stunning civil battle in 2009.

Singapore refused to increase Rajapaksa’s short-term visa and he traveled to Thailand in August, however authorities in Bangkok ordered him to not depart his resort for his personal security.

Basil, the youthful brother of Rajapaksa, a former finance minister, met Wickremesinghe final month and requested for cover to permit the ousted chief to return.

On Friday, police deployed plainclothes officers and armed guards exterior a authorities headquarters designated for Rajapaksa in Colombo previous to his arrival.

Officers mentioned safety was additionally tightened at his personal dwelling, including that he was anticipated to go to the household dwelling first.

Sri Lanka has suffered months of shortages of primary commodities together with meals, gas and medication, together with extended energy cuts and hovering inflation after working out of international forex to fund important imports.

The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a heavy blow to the island’s tourism trade and dried up remittances from Sri Lankans working overseas – each of that are a serious supply of international alternate.

Rajapaksa, who was elected in 2019 promising “prospects for prosperity and splendor,” has seen his recognition plummet because the hardships for the nation’s 22 million individuals multiply.

His authorities was accused of introducing unsustainable tax cuts that elevated authorities debt and exacerbated the disaster.

Wickremesinghe was elected by Parliament to manage the rest of Rajapaksa state. Since then, he has cracked down on avenue protests and arrested outstanding activists.

The federal government defaulted on its $51 billion international debt in April, and the central financial institution expects a file eight p.c GDP contraction this 12 months.

After months of negotiations, the Worldwide Financial Fund on Thursday accepted a conditional $2.9 billion rescue bundle to repair Sri Lanka’s dire monetary situations.


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