May 30, 2023

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Sri Lanka: Refugee near Presidential Airport fueling deportation rumours

Sri Lanka: Refugee near Presidential Airport fueling deportation rumours

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was transferred to an air base near the international airport on Monday, officials said, prompting speculation of a foreign plane.

After fleeing the presidential palace besieged by protesters on Saturday, Mr. Rajapaksa took refuge in naval facilities, Bandaranaike told AFP

The president’s office did not comment on the head of state’s condition on Monday, but several local media reported he was ready to leave for Dubai.

Four commercial flights to the Middle East took off without him, airport officials said.

Immigration officials refused to go to the VIP suite to stamp his passport, while Mr Rajapaksa refused to go through public spaces, they added, a humiliating situation for someone nicknamed the “Terminator”.

According to a military source, he remains the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces and still has the option of flying an Air Force aircraft.

The 73-year-old leader escaped through the back door of his palace on Saturday. Demonstrators, who have occupied the building since Saturday, found 17.85 million rupees (49,000 euros) in new currency notes and handed them over to police.

“The money has been recovered by the police and will be produced in court today,” a police spokesperson said on Monday.

According to official sources, a suitcase filled with documents was also found in the house.

Mr. Rajapaksa moved into the building after he was evicted from his private residence on March 31 by protesters.

The president announced his resignation on Wednesday to allow for a “peaceful transition.” Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe promised on Monday that Mr Rajapaksa had officially warned of his intentions.

The 73-year-old head of government should automatically become interim president, but Mr. Wickramasinghe said.

Mr. Wickramasinghe, an opposition MP, was appointed Prime Minister in May to help the country recover from economic and political crisis.

The process of succession must last between three days, the minimum time for convening Parliament, and 30 days, the maximum authorized by the texts.

– Speeches –

The main opposition Samagi Jana Palavekaya (SJB) on Monday held talks with smaller political parties to secure support for their leader Sajith Premadasa who lost the 2019 elections.

According to an SJB official, Mr. A tentative agreement has already been reached with Rajapakse’s SLPP dissidents.

The post of Prime Minister will then go to an SLPP member. Mr. Dulles Alagaperuma, 63, a former Rajapaksa loyalist who heads the government, was handed over to the AFP by an SJB deputy who was involved in the talks.

Five ministers resigned over the weekend and the Prime Minister’s Office said on Monday they had agreed to resign if a “multiparty government” was agreed.

On Monday, a large line was forming to visit the presidential palace, where thousands more demonstrators announced they would not leave the compound until the president’s effective resignation.

“The demand is very clear: people are still confirming (Mr. Rajapakse’s) resignation, the full resignation in writing,” explains one of the protesters, Dela Peiris. I believe we will get the resignation of the government including the Prime Minister and the President in the coming days.

Mr. Rajapaksa was accused of plunging the country into an unprecedented economic crisis, bankrupting it and starving this population of 22 million of foreign exchange for essential imports.

Colombo defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt in April.

Sri Lanka has almost exhausted its petrol reserves. The government has ordered the closure of non-essential offices and schools to reduce travel and save fuel.

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