Deposed Sri Lankan president returns home from exile

Ousted Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa returned to Colombo on Friday from his exile in Thailand after seven weeks of fleeing a country wracked by protests blaming him for the economic crisis.

Rajapaksa, 73, fled Sri Lanka in July and first took refuge in the Maldives and Singapore, where he announced his resignation.

After his visa expired after 28 days without an option to renew, he moved to Thailand where he was asked by the local authorities to stay at a hotel for security reasons and was practically detained.

A Sri Lankan defense ministry spokesman, who asked not to be named, told AFP that Rajapaksa was “staying at a Thai hotel as a prisoner and wanted to come back.”

“We have just formed a new security unit to protect him after his return, which includes elements of the army and police units,” the official added.

He explained that Rajapaksa had a visa that allowed him to stay in Thailand for ninety days. But he decided to return with his wife, a bodyguard and another assistant.

Sri Lanka’s constitution provides for bodyguards, vehicle and residence for former presidents.

Human rights activists welcomed his return and said they would seek his arrest “for the crimes he committed.”

“We can take him to court,” Tarindo Jayawardana, a spokesman for the Young Journalists’ Association of Sri Lanka, told Agence France-Presse.

He added: “We have previously asked the Inspector General to reopen criminal investigations that have been closed. We counted 21 cases against him.”

Rajapaksa, who was elected in 2019 with the promise of “prosperity prospects,” has slowly fallen out of favor as the country’s crisis worsened.

In mid-April, Sri Lanka defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt.

On Thursday, the International Monetary Fund announced a conditional aid to Sri Lanka, which is a $2.9 billion rescue plan over four years to fix its financial situation. The Board of Directors of the IMF is left to ratify the agreement, which was concluded on Thursday by the bodies of the international organization.

Source: AP

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