Ousted president returns to Sri Lanka

Colombo, Sep 2 (EFE).- Less than two months after fleeing Sri Lanka amid massive protests against his rule, former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa returned to the island nation late Friday.

Rajapaksa arrived at Bandaranaike International Airport shortly before midnight, sources at the terminal told Efe, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He was met by the ministers of Public Security, Tiran Alles; and Urban Development and Housing, Prasanna Ranatunga, the sources said.

Another anonymous source told Efe earlier Friday that Rajapaksa’s party had reached out to the current president, erstwhile Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, to arrange security for the returning politician.

The Wickremesinghe administration had expressed openness to the idea of Rajapaksa’s returning to Sri Lanka, as long as it happened “in the correct moment.”

Rajapaksa, 73, flew out of Colombo on July 13, four days after hundreds of protesters stormed his official residence as Sri Lanka was enduring its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948, marked by severe shortages of basic goods as the government ran out of hard currency reserves to pay for imports Traveling first to the nearby Maldives, Rajapaksa then proceeded to Singapore, from where he submitted his resignation on July 14.

Parliament, with support from Rajapaksa’s party, elected Wickremesinghe as the new president.

The return of the ousted head of state came a day after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced a preliminary agreement with Sri Lanka on a bailout package.

During a press conference to discuss the accord, Peter Breuer, who led the IMF team in Sri Lanka, said that the disbursement of funds was dependent on political stability in the country.

Dhamitha A, an activist with GotaGoGama, the movement that arose from the protests, said that the people who pushed for Rajapaksa’s ouster will probably not react to his return with demonstrations.

“I don’t think there will be mass protests. In fact, we want him here. We want to hold him accountable for the crisis we are in,” Dhamitha said. EFE aw-daa/ssk/dr

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