Colombo, Jul 12 (EFE).- The airport authorities of Sri Lanka on Tuesday prevented Basil Rajapaksa, a former finance minister and younger brother of current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, from leaving the country, which has been witnessing mass protests over a severe economic crisis.
Officials blocked Basil’s departure by refusing to attend to the former finance minister for VIP departure services from the airport terminal to board a plane.
This left Basil with the only option of using the public departure terminal of the airport at a time of when the country has openly and strongly expressed its rejection of the Rajapaksas and even attacked the presidential residence.
“We took this decision because we were informed officially about Basil Rajapaksa’s plans to leave the country. We didn’t want our officers to undergo the pressures and tensions of the event,” Sri Lanka Immigration and Emigration Officers’ Association head K. Kanugala told EFE.
Footage from the airport posted on social media showed Basil in an airport lounge, supposedly waiting to board a plane.
Kanugala did not reveal the destination of the flight Basil intended to take, who, like other members of the presidential family, stepped down in April under pressure from mass protests that have blamed the Rajapaksas for the country’s economic plight.
Meanwhile, a motion was filed at the Supreme Court Monday seeking an interim order to stop Basil, former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, former Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal, and several others from leaving the country.
President Rajapaksa announced on Saturday his resignation after demonstrations by thousands of people who, disgusted by the country’s crisis, raided his official residence and forced him to flee.
Although Gotabaya’s whereabouts are unknown, Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena has said he is in the country and will resign tomorrow as announced.
Sri Lankans have been protesting against the government for months amid a massive economic crisis and the demand for Rajapaksa’s resignation has intensified over the past few months.
As the demonstrators occupied the presidential palace over the weekend, images of them taking dips in the presidential swimming pool, using the gym and even relaxing in the bedrooms have gone viral around the world.
The protesters also stormed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s residence, the Temple Trees, and later set his private residence on fire.
Wickremesinghe was forced to resign from his post just two months after assuming office.
Thousands continued to protest for the fourth consecutive day on Tuesday from inside the headquarters of the Presidential Secretariat, which has been turned by the protesters into something like a public museum for the curious.
The opposition parties are now trying to build consensus for the urgent formation of a new government to address the delicate situation, while the country’s few essential reserves are exhausted.
On Jul.20, Sri Lanka’s parliament will elect a new president in the face of the nation’s worst economic crisis since its independence from the British Empire in 1948.
The island has been suffering from a severe shortage of medicines, food and fuel, caused in part by heavy sovereign debt, misguided government policies, and the impact of the pandemic on tourism, one of its main sources of income. EFE