Sri Lankan ruling party urges Ranil Wickremesinghe to facilitate return of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Gotabaya Rajapaksa. File

Gotabaya Rajapaksa. File | Photo Credit: AP

The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party has asked President Ranil Wickremesinghe to facilitate the safety of his predecessor Gotabaya Rajapaksa so that he can return to the crisis-hit island nation.

The SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam told reporters that the request was made at a meeting held with President Wickremesinghe on August 18, amid reports that Mr. Rajapaksa, who fled the country last month following unprecedented anti-government protests, may return to Sri Lanka next week.

Getting Sri Lanka out of the economic mess

Mr. Rajapaksa, 73, fled the country on July 13 after tens of thousands of people stormed into his official residence on July 9. “We asked the President to facilitate his return and ensure security and necessary facilities,” Mr. Kariyawasam said.

The Sri Lanka's Constitution allows privileges to former Presidents, including personal security and an office with staff. Having gone to the Maldives on a Sri Lanka Airforce plane, the former President proceeded to Singapore from where he sent in his resignation on July 13.

Later, he went to Thailand for temporary accommodation and he is expected to return next week from Thailand, a cousin announced on Wednesday.

According to a media report on Thursday, Mr. Rajapaksa may apply for a U. S. Green Card as he was eligible to apply due to his wife Loma Rajapaksa being a U. S. citizen. In 2019, Mr. Rajapaksa renounced his U. S. citizenship to contest the 2019 Presidential polls.

Mr. Wickremesinghe was elected the stop-gap President for the balance of Mr. Rajapaksa's term until November 2024.

He was elected on July 20 at a Parliamentary secret ballot where he won the secret vote with 134 members in the 225-member Assembly opting for him over his nearest rival also from the SLPP.

His opponents now accuse him as a President who is at the mercy of the SLPP who still commands the Parliamentary majority despite a jolt where several members had broken away from it when the public outrage rose over its bungling of the ongoing economic crisis, the worst in the island’s history.

Mr. Wickremesinghe is now tasked with resurrecting the island’s ailing economy hit by a balance of payment and a forex crisis. He spearheads an effort to gain an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout. The SLPP said they would offer him assistance to revive the economy.

Sri Lanka is in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis that has led to severe shortages of fuel and other essentials.

The island nation of 22 million needs about $5 billion in the next six months to cover basic necessities for its citizens, who have been struggling with long queues, worsening shortages of essentials and frequent power cuts.

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Printable version | Aug 19, 2022 1:37:03 pm |