The airport staff refused to stamp the passport of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Monday, thereby preventing his departure for Dubai, according to AFP. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is scheduled to leave office due to mass protests, is allegedly seeking other means of escape.
Immigration officers refused to enter the VIP suite at Bandaranaike International Airport to stamp Rajapaksa’s passport for exit, AFP’s sources said. Rajapaksa and his wife subsequently missed four flights to the United Arab Emirates as they declined to queue with the general public for fear of reprisals. The couple spent Monday night at a nearby military base.
Another escape attempt was made by Rajapaksa’s younger brother, Basil, who served as his older sibling’s finance minister until April. According to AFP’s sources, Basil Rajapaksa was prevented from using the airport’s fast-track boarding lane and left the airport after passengers began protesting.
On Saturday, President Rajapaksa announced his resignation, which will take effect this Wednesday. He is immune from arrest until that point and is believed to be fleeing to avoid detention. Officials said that he is considering taking a Sri Lankan Navy vessel to either India or the Maldives.
Rajapaksa’s resignation follows months of protests against his leadership. Sri Lanka has been driven to bankruptcy under his rule, defaulting on foreign loan debts in May and introducing fuel rationing earlier this month. The economic turmoil has been blamed on a loss of tourism revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic, and a climate-motivated ban on chemical fertilizers that halved the country’s agricultural output in a matter of months.
Rajapaksa’s government responded to rising costs by printing more money, further accelerating inflation. Concurrently, tax cuts deprived Sri Lanka of vital revenue needed to import food, fuel, and medicine.
As protesters stormed Rajapaksa’s presidential palace on Saturday, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe announced his resignation to opposition party leaders.
Under Sri Lankan law, Wickremesinghe will become president if Rajapaksa resigns as planned on Wednesday. Until parliament elects a replacement and an interim all-party government takes over, Wickremesinghe will serve as president.