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Gotabaya Rajapaksa: The former president who fled in the face of protests returns to Sri Lanka

5 hours ago

image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Former Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled the country in the face of widespread protests, has returned to the country.

He was staying in Thailand on a temporary visa. From there he returned to Colombo via Singapore.

It is reported that some ministers of the country met him at the airport.

The people of the country blame Mr. Rajapaksa’s government for the worst economic crisis in Sri Lanka’s history.

Due to the foreign exchange crisis, the country faced acute food and fuel shortages.

Due to this, last April, when the price of food and fuel oil increased drastically, protests started in the country.

Read more on BBC Bengali:

image source, AFP

Image caption,

Mahinda Rajapaksa also had to leave the post of Prime Minister.

Millions of people from all walks of life took to the streets against the Rajapaksa government and at one point former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was forced to resign in May.

In July, protesters stormed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s official residence. Mr. Rajapaksa fled the country on a military plane, first via the Maldives and then Singapore to Thailand.

His escape paved the way for veteran politician Ranil Wickremesinghe to become president.

But the return of Gotabaya Rajapaksa is also a very sensitive issue for the new government as the government does not want to see any new protests at the moment. Then there is the issue of Mr. Rajapaksa’s security.

However, one of the protest leaders, Father Jivantha Peiris, told the BBC that they were not opposed to Mr Rajapaksa’s return.

“Any citizen of Sri Lanka can come back,” he said.

But many of the protesters say they will oppose Mr. Rajapaksa if he wants to be active in politics or government again.

“He should be prosecuted for the mistakes he made as president after he came back. His brother Mahinda Rajapaksa should also be prosecuted,” Rajeev Kant, another protester, told the BBC.

According to Sri Lankan media reports, the country’s government has eyed a house for Mr. Rajapaksa in central Colombo. But it is not certain whether he will rise there directly or remain under military management for some time.

A Defense Ministry spokesman said Mr Rajapaksa would be given the security he deserved as a former president.


image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Angry protesters set cars on fire outside Mahinda Rajapaksa’s official residence

However, after Mr. Wickremesinghe took over as president, human rights organizations had accused the protesters of repression. Many were arrested and many were released on bail.

Three student union leaders who led the protest were detained under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Protesters questioned Mr Wickramasinghe’s legitimacy and lack of public support, accusing him of protecting the Rajapaksa family.

The government, however, says it is only taking action against those who violate the law.

Troops have also been deployed in front of the presidential secretariat in July where protesters were stationed. Protesters have been moving from their positions since last month.

For the past few weeks, the government has been providing fuel to registered vehicles with a pass. However, long queues are now seen at petrol pumps.

Major food items are arriving in stores but prices are high. Inflation is now around 65 percent.

On the other hand, this week, the government reached an agreement with the IMF on a loan of about three billion dollars.

But for this they have to accept many conditions including financial reforms. The Sri Lankan government will also have to restructure its $51 billion debt.

Convincing people to leave some important units of the public sector to the private sector is also a big challenge. Because there may be massive opposition from the trade unions.

The country’s opposition leaders, however, have warned that while the situation is calm at the moment, food and fuel shortages are reoccurring. As a result, the possibility of renewed protests in the coming months cannot be ruled out.

Read more on BBC Bengali:

Tags: Gotabaya Rajapaksa president fled face protests returns Sri Lanka

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