Sri Lankan President Lands at Maldives Int’l Airport
Dhaka July 13 2022 (Straits Times) :
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa landed at the Velana International Airport in the Maldives early Wednesday, Xinhua reported citing the Maldivian media.
Sri Lanka today declared a state of emergency after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled to the Maldives on a military jet in the face of a public revolt against his government for mishandling the country’s economy. The Prime Minister’s office informed the media organisations that the state of emergency in the country and a curfew in the Western province had been imposed.
Opposition presidential candidate Yashwant Sinha is slated to arrive here on Wednesday to seek support from MLAs and MPs of opposition parties in Assam for the July 18 polls, state Congress President Bhupen Bora said here. NDA’s candidate Droupadi Murmu will visit Jaipur on Wednesday to seek support from legislators for the July 18 presidential polls. Leader of Opposition in the Rajasthan assembly, Gulab Chand Kataria, said on Tuesday that Murmu will reach the Jaipur airport at 9.15 am to meet BJP MPs and MLAs at a hotel here. He said all BJP legislators have been requested to reach the hotel at 10 am. (Read More)
COLOMBO (REUTERS, AFP, BLOOMBERG) – Sri Lanka’s parliamentary speaker could receive President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation letter by midday Wednesday (July 13), a top ruling party source told Reuters, after the leader fled to the Maldives following widespread protests.
Protesters have warned of a “decisive fight” if both Mr Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe did not resign by the afternoon.
Key members of Sri Lanka’s ruling party said they are keen to back Mr Wickremesinghe as their presidential nominee though no decision has been taken yet, a top ruling party source told Reuters on Wednesday.
The source said on condition of anonymity that the members met on Tuesday evening and their “overwhelming consensus” was for Mr Wickremesinghe to replace President Rajapaksa.
Earlier, local officials said that Mr Rajapaksa had flown to the neighbouring Maldives, ahead of his expected resignation after months of protests.
The 73-year-old leader, his wife and two bodyguards were driven under police escort to an undisclosed location after they arrived in a military Antonov-32 aircraft from Sri Lanka, an airport official in Male, the capital of the Maldives, told AFP.
They arrived around 3am local time (6am in Singapore), the BBC reported, citing unidentified people.
Confirming the departure, the Sri Lanka Air Force said on Wednesday: “Under the provisions of the Constitution and on a request by the government, the Sri Lanka Air Force provided a plane early today to fly the president, his wife and two security officials to the Maldives.”
Meanwhile, the Indian High Commission in Colombo said on Twitter that it “categorically denies baseless and speculative media reports that India facilitated the recent reported travel of @gotabayar #Realbrajapaksa out of Sri Lanka”.
Government sources and aides said the president’s brothers, former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa, were still in Sri Lanka.
As news of the president’s flight spread, thousands of people gathered at the main protest site in Colombo chanting “Gota thief, Gota thief”, referring to him by a nickname.
Mr Rajapaksa had promised at the weekend to resign on Wednesday and clear the way for a “peaceful transition of power”, after fleeing his official residence in Colombo just before tens of thousands of protesters overran it.
Sri Lanka’s parliamentary speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said he has yet to receive Mr Rajapaksa’s resignation letter, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.
As president, Mr Rajapaksa enjoys immunity from arrest, and he is believed to have wanted to go abroad before stepping down to avoid the possibility of being detained.
“Their passports were stamped and they boarded the special air force flight,” an immigration official involved in the process told AFP.
The departure of Mr Rajapaksa, once known as “The Terminator”, had been stymied for more than 24 hours in a humiliating stand-off with immigration personnel at the airport.
He had wanted to fly to Dubai on a commercial flight, but staff at Bandaranaike International Airport withdrew from VIP services and insisted that all passengers had to go through public counters.
The presidential party were reluctant to go through regular channels fearing public reactions, a security official said, and as a result missed four flights on Monday that could have taken them to the United Arab Emirates.
Clearance for a military flight to land in the closest neighbour India was not immediately secured, a security official said, and at one point on Tuesday the group headed to a naval base with a view to fleeing by sea.
Mr Rajapaksa’s youngest brother Basil, who resigned in April as finance minister, missed his own Emirates flight to Dubai early Tuesday after a tense standoff of his own with airport staff.
Mr Basil Rajapaksa – who holds US citizenship in addition to Sri Lankan nationality – tried to use a paid concierge service for business travellers, but airport and immigration staff said they had withdrawn from the fast track service.
Mr Basil Rajapaksa had to obtain a new US passport after leaving his behind at the presidential palace when the Rajapaksas beat a hasty retreat to avoid mobs on Saturday, a diplomatic source said.
Official sources said a suitcase full of documents had also been left behind at the stately mansion along with 17.85 million rupees (S$316,189) in cash, now in the custody of a Colombo court.
There was no official word from the president’s office about the president’s whereabouts, but he remained commander-in-chief of the armed forces with military resources at his disposal.