Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s attempts to leave the country failed – U.S. visa appeal rejected
Several attempts by Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and 15 of his close family and aides to leave Sri Lanka have failed due to procedural issues, top aviation sources have confirmed with SBS Sinhala.
Mr. Rajapaksa, who took refuge at the Trincomalee naval base after fleeing the presidential palace on July 09, flew back to Ratmalana air base on Monday in two Bell 412 helicopters.
He then met with service chiefs and moved to the Katunayake air base by evening, defence officials told SBS Sinhala’s correspondent in Colombo.
A representative from the country’s aviation department has confirmed that Mr. Rajapaksa and his delegation were initially due to travel on Sri Lankan Airlines flight UL225 to Dubai, but immigration officers insisted that all members of the president’s close family and aides turn up at the immigration counter at Bandaranaike airport to get their passports stamped.
Security considerations are preventing the president and his close family from appearing at the public immigration counters, police and airport security officials have told this outlet.
SBS Sinhala understands that immigration officials in Sri Lanka have refused to work at the VIP or VVIP lounges at Bandaranaike airport since Saturday, July 09.
According to airport sources, the presidential group later attempted to board Etihad flight EY267, but missed that flight due to “technical issues” with immigration.
SBS Sinhala also understands that the Indian government refused to allow a Sri Lankan air force AN32, carrying the president, to land at an Indian civilian airport.
Mr. Rajapaksa had to spend a night at the Katunayake base trying to figure out how to get out safely, a defence official confirmed.
Appeals for US visa denied
Mr. Rajapaksa, who gave up his US citizenship to contest and win the 2019 Presidential election, had asked the US embassy in Colombo for a visa for him to travel to California over the weekend but was refused, a US diplomatic source has confirmed.
His son, daughter-in-law and grandchild remain US citizens and still live there.
A diplomatic source told SBS Sinhala the embassy reminded Mr. Rajapaksa that a person who has renounced US citizenship cannot be given a visitor’s visa unless under very exceptional circumstances such as the death of an immediate family member or urgent medical treatment that is available only in the US.
“It was made very clear to him that there will be no visa for him. He could go there as a head of state without a visa, but the current circumstances are different,” the embassy representative said.
However, the US embassy in Sri Lanka did assist Basil Rajapaksa, the president’s youngest brother, to obtain a new US passport almost immediately after he reported it missing in recent days.
Basil Rajapaksa held the financial ministerial portfolio before he resigned amid opposition to his financial handlings.
He had left behind his passport when he and his brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, fled the presidential palace shortly before it was overrun by protesters on Saturday.
Former Finance minister Basil Rajapaksha’s plan to leave Sri Lanka unsuccessful
It has been reported that Basil Rajapaksa arrived at Bandaranaike airport, to leave Sri Lanka on Monday evening but had to turn back.
He had arrived at the ‘Silk Route’ departure terminal, which is a special paid service of the Sri Lankan airport aviation authority dedicated to stamping passenger passports and collecting luggage on behalf of the passenger.
But upon his arrival, immigration officers took steps to withdraw from their duties.
Accordingly, it has been further stated that Basil Rajapaksa has not been able to leave Sri Lanka.
In the meantime, the Sri Lankan Immigration Officers’ Association released a statement saying that considering the current situation in the country, it has decided to cease ‘Silk Road’ passenger clearance activities from midnight until further notice.
Speaker withdraws his statement on the location of the president
Sri Lankan Parliament speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena told the BBC on Monday that the president left for a “nearby” country.
However, he later withdrew the statement, saying he had made a “mistake”.
Rumours are circulating in the country that the president had boarded a ship soon after thousands of protesters stormed his official residence in Colombo on Saturday and remained in Sri Lankan waters, however, they remain unsubstantiated.