After leaving the country in July after tens of thousands of demonstrators assaulted his home and office in a show of rage over the nation’s economic difficulties, Gotabaya Rajapaksa has returned after a seven-week absence. Around midnight on Friday, Rajapaksa arrived at the Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo via Singapore and Bangkok.
Rajapaksa arrived at a government-owned mansion in the heart of Colombo after being greeted by parliamentarians from his party. The motorcade he was traveling in was tightly escorted by armed soldiers.
Earlier in Sri Lanka
On July 13, the overthrown leader, his wife, and two bodyguards boarded an air force plane and headed for Singapore, where he formally tendered his resignation before continuing to the Maldives. A month later, he took a plane to Thailand. There are no active legal proceedings or any arrest warrants against Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
When he was elected president in 2019, the one court case he was facing for alleged corruption from when he served as the secretary to the ministry of defense under the presidency of his older brother was dropped due to constitutional immunity.
The biggest economic catastrophe Sri Lanka has ever experienced has gripped the country for months, leading to enormous public outrage and tremendous rallies that ultimately led Rajapaksa and his brother, the former prime minister, to resign. Global causes like the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exacerbated the situation in the insolvent nation, but many blame the once-dominant Rajapaksa family for gravely mismanaging the economy and pushing it into disaster.
Due to a significant lack of foreign money, the economic catastrophe has resulted in months-long shortages of necessities, including fuel, medicine, and cooking gas. Even though the World Bank helped to restore the supply of cooking gas, there are still ongoing shortages of fuel, life-saving medications, and some foodstuffs.
The island country has put on hold paying back its about $7 billion in foreign debt that was due this year. The overall amount of the nation’s foreign debt exceeds $51 billion, of which $28 billion must be repaid by 2027. On Tuesday, President Ranil Wickremesinghe and his administration achieved a preliminary agreement with the International Monetary Fund for a $2.9 billion bailout package over four years to aid in the country’s recovery. Wickremesinghe became the president when Rajapaksa resigned.
After bombings with Islamic State inspiration that claimed 270 lives in churches and hotels on Easter Sunday 2019, Rajapaksa, a veteran military officer, was elected on pledges to improve the nation’s economy and guarantee national security. Since rules at the time prohibited dual citizens from holding political office, he renounced his American citizenship when he ran for office.
He is charged with managing military abuses of human rights during the nation’s three-decade civil war with the now-defeated Tamil Tiger insurgents, who fought for an independent state for the nation’s Tamil ethnic minority.” Gota, go home,” a call for Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign, was chanted by protestors when they set up camp outside the president’s office in April. This slogan quickly became the movement’s catchphrase.
The Rajapaksa family’s hold on politics was weakened by the demonstrations. In addition to his older brother resigning as prime minister, three other members of his immediate family also left their Cabinet posts prior to Rajapaksa’s resignation. Wickremesinghe, the nation’s new leader, has since cracked down on protesters.
His first act as leader was to tear down the protest tents in the middle of the night while police assaulted and forcibly removed the protesters from the location. People who want to protest right now are genuinely afraid, according to Bhavani Fonseksa of the nonpartisan think group Center for Policy Alternatives.
Former diplomat and political analyst Dayan Jayatilleka said the ruling SLPP party would welcome him back but didn’t believe his homecoming would cause people to swarm the streets once more.
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