Basil Rajapaksa, the former finance minister of Sri Lanka and brother of the outgoing President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, attempted to leave the country early Tuesday but was turned back by airport officials, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
People at the main international airport serving Colombo began protesting when they saw Basil Rajapaksa trying to depart, the person said, asking not to be identified given the sensitivity of the situation. Grainy personal phone videos doing the rounds on social media showed passengers protesting the presence of someone said to be Basil Rajapaksa in the terminal and demanding that he not be allowed to leave the country.
Immigration officials in the VIP departure lounge had earlier withdrawn from their duties for safety, “considering the current unstable and crisis situation in the country and the strong possibility of a large number of accused former political VIPs using this” terminal to leave the country, according to a statement from the Sri Lanka Immigration and Emigration Officers Association.
News website Adaderena had previously reported Basil Rajapaksa’s attempt to leave Sri Lanka. A call to Basil Rajapaksa’s representative wasn’t answered.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa is due to resign Wednesday, after mass public protests that erupted over the weekend when demonstrators swarmed the presidential palace and vowed to occupy the colonial-era building until he steps down. Citizens are angry about living conditions, with inflation forecast to hit 70% and severe shortages of food, fuel and medicines as the island suffers its worst economic crisis, blamed on the Rajapaksa family’s policies.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa left the building shortly before it was taken over Saturday and his whereabouts are currently unknown. Speculation is rife about whether he will stay in the country.
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