New Delhi: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is expected to resign from the position Wednesday, is likely to escape to Dubai or Singapore, after reportedly fleeing to Maldives in the wee hours of Wednesday. India has vehemently denied any involvement in facilitating his travel.
Gotabaya, younger brother of former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, reportedly left the country with his wife Ioma, and a bodyguard, on an Antonov-32 military aircraft.
According to intelligence sources, Gotabaya’s flight was conducted by the Sri Lanka Air Force’s (SLAF) No. 2 squadron, which handles VVIP transport. The sources also said that in addition to the Ukrainian-made Antonov 32 and United States-manufactured C-130, the SLAF transport fleet also includes the Chinese-built Harbin Y-12 and Xian MA60, but the Chinese aircraft are not used for VVIP transport.
Even as reports of Gotabaya fleeing started to emerge, the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka said in a tweet that the “High Commission categorically denies baseless and speculative media reports that India facilitated the recent reported travel of @gotabayar @Realbrajapaksa out of Sri Lanka. It is reiterated that India will continue to support the people of Sri Lanka as they seek to realise their aspirations for prosperity and progress through democratic means and values, established democratic institutions and constitutional framework.”
High Commission categorically denies baseless and speculative media reports that India facilitated the recent reported travel of @gotabayar @Realbrajapaksa out of Sri Lanka. It is reiterated that India will continue to support the people of Sri Lanka (1/2)
— India in Sri Lanka (@IndiainSL) July 13, 2022
India continued to reiterate that as it will stand by the Sri Lankans, who are facing a severe economic meltdown, resulting in food and fuel shortages across the country.
On Sunday, the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka had also denied reports of India sending troops to Sri Lanka.
The High Commission would like to categorically deny speculative reports in sections of media and social media about India sending her troops to Sri Lanka. These reports and such views are also not in keeping with the position of
the Government of India. (1/2)
— India in Sri Lanka (@IndiainSL) July 10, 2022
Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, had also said last week, “We would of course be guided by our friendly relations and our historical ties with Sri Lanka and we remain committed to stand with the people of Sri Lanka and work in their best interests and the requirements of the people of Sri Lanka, as occupies is a priority for us.”
This very year, the Narendra Modi government in India has offered humanitarian assistance worth $3.5 billion to fund fuel, food, medicines and fertilizers for Sri Lankans.
‘Gotabaya may finally settle in Dubai or Singapore’
Diplomatic sources have told ThePrint that Gotabaya is believed to be exploring all options in finding a safe haven for himself. The Sri Lankan president had earlier sought to settle the deepening crisis in Sri Lanka by appointing Ranil Wickremesinghe as the country’s Prime Minister, after removing his elder brother Mahinda from the position.
Sources also said that Gotabaya has properties in Dubai and he is waiting for permission to go through by the UAE authorities. If that does not come through, he will go to Singapore which has a vast Sri Lankan diaspora.
However, in the interim period he may continue to stay in Maldives. Gotabaya and Maldives’ speaker Mohamed Nasheed are believed to be “close friends” and it was he who apparently helped the Sri Lankan President flee the country, sources said.
Before fleeing Gotabaya is believed to have handed over his signed resignation letter to the speaker. The Sri Lankan president is expected to officially resign Wednesday, as the island nation continues to battle a deep economic crisis.
Bagchi had last week said that “they’re (Sri Lanka) part of our ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, we will continue with this approach. We’ve also, you know, on a larger issue, looked at how we can enhance the economic linkages between our two countries, be it through infrastructure, connectivity, renewable energy, etc. So I think that would be a larger sense of where we stand in terms of assistance, as well as what we have been doing to help the Sri Lankan people.”
With inputs from Praveen Swami.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)