‘Don’t safeguard criminals’: Fleeing Sri Lankan president faces protests in Maldives

Sri Lankan expatriates carrying flags and placards denounced Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled his country after protesters overran his Colombo residence over the worsening economic crisis

July 13, 2022 11:57 pm | Updated July 14, 2022 09:24 am IST - Malé

Sri Lankans living in the Maldives stage a demonstration in Male on July 13 to protest for the arrival of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who is fleeing his own country after thousands of protesters overran his official residence.

Sri Lankans living in the Maldives stage a demonstration in Male on July 13 to protest for the arrival of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who is fleeing his own country after thousands of protesters overran his official residence. | Photo Credit: AFP

Escaping Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa faced protests in the Maldives on July 13 with dozens of compatriots urging Male not to provide him safe heaven.

Sri Lankan expatriates carrying flags and placards denounced Mr. Rajapaksa, who fled his country early on July 13 after protesters overran his Colombo residence at the weekend over the worsening economic crisis in the South Asian nation.

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"Dear Maldivian friends, please urge your government not to safeguard criminals," said a black and white banner held by Sri Lankans working in the islands' tiny capital.

Local media carried unverified videos of residents shouting insults at Mr. Rajapaksa as he walked out of the Velana International airport following his arrival on a military aircraft.

As Sri Lankans protested at an artificial beach area in Male on July 13, Special Operations police confiscated placards and dispersed the demonstrators, witnesses said.

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Local reports suggested that he was staying at an exclusive resort and would leave for either the United Arab Emirates or Singapore later on July 13.

"He is going into exile in either of the two locations," a Sri Lankan security source in Colombo said. "Ensuring security would be a challenge because there are Sri Lankan communities in both."

The main opposition Progressive Party of Maldives opposed the granting of free passage to Mr. Rajapaksa, who faces several court cases, including allegations of war crimes.

"We are betraying our friends in Sri Lanka by accepting Rajapaksa, a hated figure in that country," a PPM leader told AFP.

The two countries have close ties and a considerable Maldivian community lives in the bigger island nation, while a significant number of Sri Lankans work in education, health and hospitality in the Maldives.

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