New Delhi: India on Wednesday (July 13, 2022) categorically denied “baseless and speculative” media reports that it facilitated the travel of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled to the Maldives on a Sri Lankan Air Force plane amid widespread protests against his government for mishandling the country’s economy. “The High Commission categorically denies baseless and speculative media reports that India facilitated the recently reported travel of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Basil Rajapaksa out of Sri Lanka,” the High Commission of India in Sri Lanka said.
“It is reiterated that India will continue to support the people of Sri Lanka as they seek to realize their aspirations for prosperity and progress through democratic means and values, established democratic institutions and constitutional framework,” it said in a tweet.
as they seek to realize their aspirations for prosperity and progress through democratic means and values , established democratic institutions and constitutional framework.(2/2)
— India in Sri Lanka (@IndiainSL) July 13, 2022
73-year-old Rajapaksa, his wife and two bodyguards, left aboard a Sri Lankan Air Force plane for Male, the capital of the Maldives. In a brief statement, the Sri Lankan Air Force confirmed that under the Constitution granted to an Executive President, Rajapaksa was flown to the Maldives onboard an Air Force plane Wednesday morning.
“On government request and in terms of powers available to a President under the Constitution, with complete approval from the ministry of defense, the President, his wife and two security officials were provided a Sri Lanka Air Force plane to depart from the Katunayake international airport for the Maldives in the early hours of July 13,” the statement said.
Rajapaksa, who enjoys immunity from prosecution while he is president, is believed to have wanted to flee abroad before resigning to avoid the possibility of arrest by the new government.
Earlier on Saturday, Rajapaksa had announced to step down on Wednesday after thousands of protesters stormed his official residence, blaming him for the unprecedented economic crisis that has brought the country to its knees. Sri Lanka, an island nation of 22 million people, is under the grip of an unprecedented economic turmoil, the worst in seven decades, leaving millions struggling to buy food, medicine, fuel and other essentials.
(With agency inputs)