Former Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa returned to Sri Lanka late Friday night from Singapore, where he had fled fearing reprisal at the hands of the people of Sri Lanka for leading them to an economic crisis. He returned to Sri Lanka 51 days after fleeing the country amid a wave of protests.
Sri Lankan news agencies reported that the former president returned to Sri Lanka amid heavy security presence. He landed at the Bandaranaike International Airport late Friday night.
Video Update: Former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who returned to Sri Lanka today, was driven out of the airport under tight security. #DailyMirror #SriLanka #SLnews #GotabayaRajapaksa @GotabayaR pic.twitter.com/YwqcmeTzWw
— DailyMirror (@Dailymirror_SL) September 2, 2022
He was granted residence at a state bungalow close to Wijerama Mawatha in Colombo where his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa lived. A heavy security presence will be maintained in that area as well.
Several ministers, according to Daily Mirror Lanka, arrived at the Bandaranaike International Airport to greet Rajapaksa.
Rajapaksa’s return and the warm response from the politicians who reached out to greet him on his return shows that he continues to enjoy the support he gets from people in Sri Lanka’s political establishment.
It was in July that he along with former first lady Chamal Rajapaksa and former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa fled to Maldives aboard a Sri Lankan Air Force plane amid protests against the government due to the economic crisis. He left Maldives in less than a week’s time and then entered Singapore on a medical visa, which was extended twice.
The Singapore government did not extend the medical visa for the third time. The former president will remain in Sri Lanka till his application for the US Green Card is approved by the US government.
His return also coincided with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reaching a staff-level agreement with the Sri Lankan government on the bailout. The IMF on September 1 said: “The Sri Lankan authorities and the IMF team have reached staff-level agreement to support the authorities’ economic adjustment and reform policies with a new 48-month Extended Fund Facility (EFF) with a requested access of about SDR 2.2 billion (equivalent to US$2.9 billion).”
Sri Lankan economy is expected to contract by 8.7% in 2022 and inflation rate crossed 60% recently impacting the poor and the needy in the island-nation.
It is also likely to anger the protesters who for months protested in Colombo’s Galle Face. The protests have largely been muted after parliamentarians voted for Ranil Wickremesinghe for the position of the president.
Sri Lankan people were reportedly unhappy with the elevation of Ranil Wickremesinghe with many accusing him of being close to the Rajapaksas. Some even went to the extent of calling him ‘Ranil Rajapaksa’ due to his closeness with the Rajapaksas.