Sri Lanka: Maldives' Parliament Speaker negotiated President Rajapaksa’s escape from country
| Updated: Wednesday, July 13, 2022, 12:59 [IST]
Colombo/Male, July 13: Sri Lanka's embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's escape from the country to the Maldives was negotiated by the Maldivian Parliament Speaker and former president Mohamed Nasheed.
The 73-year-old President fled to the Maldives along with his wife and two security officers on a military jet early Wednesday in the face of a public revolt against his government for mishandling the country's economy.
In a brief statement, the Sri Lankan Air Force said that under the Constitution granted to an Executive President, Rajapaksa was flown to the Maldives onboard an Air Force plane early Wednesday morning.
President Rajapaksa's escape from Colombo was negotiated by Majlis (Parliament) Speaker Nasheed, source told news agency PTI in the Maldives capital Male said. The Maldivian government's argument is that Rajapaksa is still the President of Sri Lanka, and that he hasn't resigned or handed over his powers to a successor.
Therefore, if he wanted to travel to the Maldives, it could not have been denied, sources said.
India denies reports of helping Rajapaksa flee Lanka
Thirteen people accompanied Rajapaksa to the Maldives. They arrived in an AN32 aircraft, according to TV news channels.
Reports say that initial requests to land a military aircraft in the Maldives were refused by the Civil Aviation Authority in Maldives, but later landing was authorised on the request of Speaker Nasheed.
On Saturday, Rajapaksa announced that he will step down on Wednesday after thousands of protesters stormed his official residence, blaming him for the unprecedented economic crisis that has brought the country to its knees.
Rajapaksa, who enjoys immunity from prosecution while he is president, fled the country before resigning to avoid the possibility of arrest by the new government. He is expected to be in the Maldives on transit before flying to another destination which is yet to be known.
Sri Lanka crisis: President Gotabaya Rajapaksa flees to Maldives
Rajapaksa is likely to send his resignation letter only after reaching his final destination on Wednesday evening, Sri Lanka's The Morning news portal reported, citing highly placed government sources.
It is learnt that the Rajapaksa's resignation letter would be sent to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena at around 8 pm Sri Lanka time, it added.
Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million people, is under the grip of an unprecedented economic turmoil, the worst in seven decades, leaving millions struggling to buy food, medicine, fuel and other essentials.