Gotabaya Rajapaksa expected to return to Sri Lanka, minister says – The Guardian

Sri Lanka’s beleaguered former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled the country after mass protests and resigned this month, is expected to return home, according to a cabinet minister.

Rajapaksa fled Sri Lanka under the cover of darkness in a military jet earlier this month after protesters took over his house and presidential offices, demanding he resign.

He and his wife flew to the Maldives and then to Singapore, where he has remained since. Rajapaksa’s resignation letter was dispatched from Singapore to Sri Lanka and formally accepted by the cabinet on 15 July.

Many had presumed that Rajapaksa would remain out of the country in self-imposed exile in order to avoid possible prosecution for accusations of corruption and war crimes allegations that date back over a decade.

While he was president he enjoyed immunity from prosecution, but now he is no longer in office, efforts have begun to investigate and arrest him and there are widespread calls on the streets of Sri Lanka for him and his family to face charges.

Rajapaksa’s final destination has therefore been the source of much speculation. The Singapore authorities confirmed that he was there on a short visitor visa and had not applied for asylum, though his visitor visa was extended recently by another 14 days, so he can stay in the country until 11 August.

His apparent decision to return to Sri Lanka could be in part because he has few other options for travel. Human rights groups and lawyers said they had been pressuring countries behind the scenes not to accept him and, according to reports, the US embassy declined to give him a visa. The US was seen to be Rajapaksa’s favoured final destination as his son and grandchild live there and he is a former citizen.

It had also been reported that he intended to travel to the United Arab Emirates, long seen as a favoured destination for disgraced and exiled leaders and where the Rajapaksa family reportedly have assets.

But speaking to reporters on Tuesday, the cabinet spokesperson Bandula Gunawardana gave the strongest indication yet that Rajapaksa intended to return to Sri Lanka. He insisted that the former president was not in hiding.

Sri Lanka unrest: how the week unfolded – video report

“To my knowledge, he is expected to come back,” said Gunawardana. He gave no timeline for Rajapaksa’s expected return.

Rajapaksa’s decision to come back could also be linked to the new government in charge. The newly appointed Sri Lankan president, Ranil Wickremesinghe, is considered to be an ally of Rajapaksa. He has the backing of the Rajapaksas’ political party and has a cabinet filled with figures who served under the former president. Many are unconvinced that, even though Rajapaksa no longer has immunity from protection, the Wickremesinghe government will investigate and hold the former president accountable, as protesters on the streets have been calling for.

On his return to the country Rajapaksa is also likely to face considerable anger from the public who ousted him. He stands accused of economic mismanagement and divisive politics that led to Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis since independence, with food and fuel shortages crippling the island, and a key demand of the protest movement is that he and his family are investigated for corruption.

In a sign of what could await him if he returns, on Wednesday Sri Lanka’s supreme court issued a notice for Rajapaksa to make submissions by 1 August on various petitions calling for accountability for those responsible for the country’s economic crash.

Rajapaksa has made no public statement or address since he left the country. His older brother Mahinda, the former president and prime minister, remains in the country, as do his younger brother Basil, the former finance minister; other members of the Rajapaksa family who served in government, and his nephew Namal Rajapaksa, who is considered the political heir apparent of the family. All are prevented from leaving by a supreme court order.

Sorgente articolo:
Gotabaya Rajapaksa expected to return to Sri Lanka, minister says – The Guardian

User ID Campaign ID Link
d9a95efa0a2845057476957a427b0499 l-99999984 Cloud Realtime
d9a95efa0a2845057476957a427b0499 l-99999996 Video Course Online
d9a95efa0a2845057476957a427b0499 l-99999993 High Pagerank Service
d9a95efa0a2845057476957a427b0499 l-99999979 Fiasconaro