Sri Lanka President fails bid to flee country
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa makes a failed attempt to flee the country, where he reportedly seeks to resign to avoid getting arrested for his crimes.
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has attempted to flee the country, which was met with failure after airport staff foiled his plan and forced him to retreat.
Rajapaksa is set to officially resign on Wednesday following months of demonstrations aimed at toppling the government and ending his reign as President. He was reportedly trying to escape to Dubai on Monday night.
The attempt was thwarted after immigration staff denied the president's request to access the VIP area of the airport to stamp his passport, officials said. He would not stand in the other queues out of fear of being among the public in light of the resentment felt toward him.
Due to the two aforementioned factors, Rajapaksa missed four flights to the UAE and he had to return to a nearby military base alongside his wife.
Though unconfirmed, officials told AFP that the President was mulling using a navy patrol craft to leave Sri Lanka in a bid to flee the outrage against him.
As President, Rajapaksa has immunity from arrest, and he reportedly wants to go abroad before resigning from his post to curtail any arrests. He could face charges of corruption and economic mismanagement. His actions bankrupted the country and led to the worst financial crisis in recorded history.
He could also face accusations of war crimes, including enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings during his time as Sri Lanka's Minister of Defense when he ended the civil war in 2009 with bloody means. For more than a decade, the allegations against him have not made it to any court of law.
His brother, former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, was also prevented from boarding a flight to the United States over accusations of widespread corruption.
Following news of the Rajapsksas attempting to flee Sri Lanka, a motion was filed to the supreme court seeking an order to prohibit the former Finance Minister, former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, and several others who served in Rajapaksa's administration from being able to leave the country due to the damage they have done to the population and the economy.
The protests against the Rajapaksa administration culminated in the President fleeing his official residence in the capital as protestors were gathering around the presidential palace. The demonstrators later broke into the palace and have been there since, with security guards and personnel not doing anything to stop them.
In response, Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe summoned an urgent cabinet meeting to discuss a "swift resolution" to a potential power vacuum after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled his official residence Saturday.
Wickremesinghe, who is next in line of succession if Rajapaksa resigns, invited political party leaders to join the meeting and also asked for parliament to be convened urgently to discuss the crisis, his office said in a statement.
Sri Lanka went into default on its $51 billion foreign debt in April and is currently negotiating a bailout with the International Monetary Fund.