Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa flees to Maldives on military jet

Gotabaya Rajapaksa - President of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa flew out of his country early Wednesday (July 13), in a probable prelude to his resignation after months of widespread protests over the island nation’s worst-ever economic crisis.

Gotabaya 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.

As president, Mr. Rajapaksa is entitled to immunity from arrest, and he is believed to have wanted to go abroad before stepping down to avoid the possibility of being detained.

He, his wife, and a bodyguard were among four passengers on board an Antonov-32 military aircraft that took off from the main international airport heading for the neighbouring Maldives, according to immigration sources.

“Their passports were stamped and they boarded the special air force flight,” an immigration official involved in the process told AFP.

The departure of the 73-year-old leader 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.