Sri Lanka’s Gotabaya Rajapaksa on the run: After Maldives, next destination Singapore

Gotabaya Rajapaksa - Sri Lanka President

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled to the Maldives in the wee hours on Wednesday (July 13), is now expected to head to Singapore with his family.

Sources said that Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been speaking to Singapore authorities and they, too, have given the go-ahead.

Meanwhile, local media in the Maldives reported that Gotabaya Rajapaksa cannot stay in the country for too long.

The source, who declined to be identified given the sensitivity of the subject, said Gotabaya Rajapaksa could send his resignation to the speaker of Sri Lankan parliament after landing in Singapore.

Sources to news agency PTI said that Rajapaksa’s escape from Sri Lanka to the Maldives was negotiated by the Maldivian Parliament Speaker and former president Mohamed Nasheed.

Rajapaksa, his wife and two bodyguards travelled to Male on a military jet after full approval of the Maldives defence ministry.

In a statement, the Sri Lanka Air Force said, “On government request and in terms of powers available to a President under the Constitution, with complete approval from the ministry of defence, the President, his wife and two security officials were provided a Sri Lanka Air Force plane to depart from the Katunayake international airport for the Maldives in the early hours of 13 July.”

It is worth mentioning that Rajapaksa has been enjoying immunity from prosecution since he is still the President of Sri Lanka. By escaping from the island nation, he is also trying to avoid the possibility of arrest by the new government.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s Office also confirmed that the Rajapaksa left Sri Lanka.

After arriving at the Velana airport, Rajapaksa was received by a Maldivian government representative and was taken to an undisclosed location under police escort, sources said, quoting Maldivian officials.

According to TV news channels, 13 people accompanied Rajapaksa to the Maldives. They arrived in an AN32 aircraft.

PM Ranil Wickremesinghe made Sri Lanka’s acting President

On Wednesday afternoon, Sri Lanka Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced that Rajapaksa has appointed Prime Minister Wickremesinghe to act to perform his functions while he is abroad.

Abeywardena also said that President Rajapaksa has informed him over telephone that he will resign today (13 July) as promised. He said the vote for the new president will take place on 20 July.

Wickremesinghe, who is now acting President, has declared a state of emergency in Sri Lanka and a curfew in the Western province has been imposed as protesters gathered in his office at Flower Road in Colombo.

Protests in Sri Lanka

Fresh protests erupted in Sri Lanka after the news of Rajapaksa fleeing from the country was confirmed. Angry Sri Lankans arrived in large numbers in Colombo and barged into the Prime Minister’s Office. The police fired tear gas on protesters who broke through a barricade and stormed in Wickremesinghe’s office, calling for his resignation.

TV channels in Sri Lanka go off air

Media in Sri Lanka have been reporting minute-by-minute updates on the protests and developments in the island nation. However, Sri Lanka’s state-owned television channel Rupavahini briefly suspended its telecast on Wednesday as protesters stormed the building. Later, the channel resumed its transmission.

Also, a second Sri Lankan state television channel went off air, less than an hour after Rupavahini suspended its operations.