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Lanka Ex President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Who Fled Amid Unrest, Returns

The 73-year-old chief had returned from Bangkok by way of Singapore. (File)


Sri Lanka’s deposed former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa returned to the nation Friday, an airport official stated, seven weeks after he fled amid the island’s worst-ever financial disaster.

Rajapaksa was festooned with flowers by a welcoming occasion of ministers and politicians as he disembarked on the major worldwide airport, the official added — in an indication of his enduring affect within the Indian Ocean nation critics say he led to spoil.

“There was a rush of presidency politicians to garland him as he got here out of the plane,” the official advised AFP.

Rajapaksa fled Sri Lanka underneath navy escort in mid-July after unarmed crowds stormed his official residence, following months of offended demonstrations blaming him for the nation’s unprecedented financial disaster.

He despatched in his resignation from Singapore earlier than flying on to Thailand, from the place he had petitioned his successor Ranil Wickremesinghe to facilitate his return.

The 73-year-old chief arrived from Bangkok by way of Singapore on a industrial flight, ending his 52-day self-imposed exile.

“He has been residing in a Thai resort as a digital prisoner and was eager to return,” a defence official, who requested to not be named, advised AFP.

“We’ve got simply created a brand new safety division to guard him after his return,” the official added.

“The unit includes parts from the military and police commandos.”

Opposition politicians have accused Wickremesinghe of protecting the once-powerful Rajapaksa household.

Sri Lanka’s structure ensures bodyguards, a automobile and housing for former presidents, together with Gotabaya and his elder brother and fellow ex-president Mahinda.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation ended his presidential immunity, and rights activists stated they might press for his arrest on a number of prices, together with his alleged function within the 2009 assassination of distinguished newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunge.

“We welcome his resolution to return in order that we are able to convey him to justice for the crimes he has dedicated,” stated Tharindu Jayawardhana, a spokesman for the Sri Lanka Younger Journalists’ Affiliation.

Rajapaksa additionally faces prices in a courtroom within the US state of California over Wickrematunge’s homicide and the torture of Tamil prisoners on the finish of the island’s traumatic civil battle in 2009.

– Tight safety –

Singapore declined to increase Rajapaksa’s short-term visa and he travelled to Thailand in August, however authorities in Bangkok instructed him to not step out of his resort for his personal security.

Rajapaksa’s youngest brother, Basil, the previous finance minister, met with Wickremesinghe final month and requested safety to permit the deposed chief to return.

On Friday police deployed plainclothes officers and armed guards outdoors a authorities residence allotted to Rajapaksa in Colombo forward of his arrival.

Safety at his non-public house was additionally stepped up, officers stated, including that he was anticipated to first go to the household residence.

Sri Lanka has endured months of shortages of essential items together with meals, gasoline and medicines, together with prolonged electrical energy blackouts and skyrocketing inflation after working out of international foreign money to finance important imports.

The coronavirus pandemic dealt a hammer blow to the island’s tourism business and dried up remittances from Sri Lankans working overseas — each key international change earners.

Rajapaksa, who was elected in 2019 promising “vistas of prosperity and splendour”, noticed his reputation nosedive as hardships multiplied for the nation’s 22 million folks.

His authorities was accused of introducing unsustainable tax cuts that drove up authorities debt and exacerbated the disaster.

Wickremesinghe was elected by parliament to see out the rest of Rajapaksa’s time period. He has since cracked down on road protests and arrested main activists.

The federal government defaulted on its $51 billion international debt in April and the central financial institution forecasts a document eight % GDP contraction this 12 months.

After months of negotiations, the Worldwide Financial Fund agreed on Thursday to a conditional $2.9 billion bailout bundle to restore Sri Lanka’s battered funds.

(Aside from the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV workers and is revealed from a syndicated feed.)

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