Bankrupt Sri Lanka’s ousted former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa is expected to return home on Saturday after ending his self-imposed exile in Thailand. This information was reported by the news agency AFP, citing a top defense official.
Angry mobs blamed him for the island nation’s unprecedented economic crisis, sparking months of protests. At one point in the protests, large crowds stormed his official residence and he fled the country last July under military guard.
First to Maldives and then from there to Singapore Jan Gotabaya. He sent his resignation letter from Singapore and went to Bangkok. There he appealed to facilitate the return of his successor.
“He was living in a Thai hotel as a virtual prisoner and was eager to return,” the defense official told AFP on Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity. We are told that he will be back very early on Saturday. We have just created a new security department to protect him when he returns on Saturday. The unit consists of army and police commandos.’
Sri Lanka’s constitution guarantees bodyguards, a car and accommodation for former presidents.
Rajapaksa went to Thailand after Singapore refused to extend his 28-day visa. But security authorities in Bangkok advised him not to leave the hotel for his own safety.
The former president had a 90-day visa to stay in Thailand. But he wanted to return with his wife, a bodyguard and another aide, the official said.
Rajapaksa’s younger brother, former finance minister Basil, met President Ranil Wickremesinghe last month and requested protection to allow the ousted leader’s return.
The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPPSLPP) party said in a statement, “Basil Rajapaksa requested the President to arrange for the return of the former President.”
Sri Lanka has been suffering months of acute food, fuel and medicine shortages, prolonged blackouts and hyperinflation after running out of foreign currency to finance essential imports.
The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a hammer blow to the island’s tourism industry. During this time, the amount of remittances sent from Sri Lankans working abroad also decreased. Both these sectors are important for the country’s foreign exchange.