Colombo, Jul 26 (EFE).- Sri Lanka’s former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who had left the country earlier this month before stepping down, is expected to return from Singapore, according to official sources on Tuesday.
“I do not believe at all that the former president is in exile because he went to that country (Singapore) with an official visa. This is under the rights any other person has (…) he will be returning,” cabinet spokesperson Bandula Gunawardena said at a press conference in Colombo.
On July 13, Rajapaksa left the country with his wife and two bodyguards, days after a protest that saw tens of thousands of people amassing in Colombo demanding his resignation.
The protests, on Jul.9, culminated with demonstrators storming into state buildings, including the Presidential Secretariat. The house of current President Ranil Wickremesinghe, then-prime minister, was set ablaze the same night.
Lawyers from the nonprofit International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) have submitted a criminal complaint to the Attorney General of Singapore requesting the immediate arrest of Rajapaksa, for war crimes, according to a statement by the group on Sunday.
“The ITJP submission to the Attorney General calls for the arrest, investigation and indictment of Gotabaya Rajapaksa,” the statement said.
“It begins by outlining his role as a former military commander in 1989, in charge of a district where at least 700 people disappeared under his watch. But the document focuses mainly on his role as Sri Lanka’s secretary of defence, during the end of the country’s civil war in 2009,” it added referring to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam insurgency.
The call for Rajapaksa’s arrest was welcomed by Singapore lawmaker Kenneth Jeyaretnam, whose family was affected by the war.
Jeyaretnam said he has called on the international community to put “maximum pressure” to ensure the Rajapaksas are brought to justice, and compared them to Assad and Putin.
Sri Lankans began to take to the streets throughout the country at the end of March to protest a serious economic crisis the island has been struggling with for months.
The nation has been witnessing acute shortages of essentials such as fuel and cooking gas, as it struggles to keep afloat with no foreign currency for imports.
The protesters blamed Rajapaksa for his handling of the crisis partly triggered by heavy debt, misguided government policies, and the impact of the 2019 Easter attacks and the pandemic on tourism.
Sri Lanka is negotiating a bailout package with the International Monetary Fund and other donor countries. EFE