Sri Lanka crisis: President Gotabaya Rajapaksa arrives in Singapore after fleeing anti-government protests

Sri Lanka crisis: President Gotabaya Rajapaksa arrives in Singapore after fleeing anti-government protests
The plane carrying Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa arriving in Singapore on July 14, 2022.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa flew into Singapore from the Maldives on Thursday (July 14) evening, after fleeing Sri Lanka amid a deepening crisis and widespread protests there.

It is understood he has tendered his resignation.

He arrived on board a Saudia flight which touched down at Changi Airport at 7.17pm.

It is not clear how long he will stay in Singapore or if he has another destination in mind.

In response to media queries on his entry into Singapore, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman confirmed that Mr Rajapaksa has been allowed entry into Singapore on a private visit.

"He has not asked for asylum and neither has he been granted any asylum. Singapore generally does not grant requests for asylum," the spokesman said.

Protests have been building against his government for months with severe shortages of food, fuel and medicine.

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had agreed to step down on July 13, 2022. PHOTO: Facebook/Gotabaya Rajapaksa

The turmoil escalated over the weekend as tens of thousands of demonstrators overran Mr Rajapaksa's official residence and occupied other key government buildings in Colombo.

Mr Rajapaksa was expected to formally resign on Wednesday but has not stepped down officially yet, despite his earlier pledge to do so.

Sri Lanka is in the throes of a political upheaval prompted by an economic crisis, which analysts blame on successive governments' economic mismanagement, worsened by the Rajapaksa government's policy missteps since coming to power in late 2019.

The coronavirus pandemic also devastated the country's tourism industry.

At Changi Airport's Terminal 3 where the Saudia plane was scheduled to arrive, a Sri Lankan woman who wanted be known only as Madam Fatimah was spotted at the arrival gate with her husband.

The pair, who are Singapore permanent residents, said they were sending off their son on an 8pm flight and decided to try and catch a glimpse of Mr Rajapaksa.

Ms Fatimah, 52, said she was upset by the unravelling situation in Sri Lanka. She has family there, including a brother whom she speaks with daily and who has been badly affected by the fuel crisis. His family has had to wait as many as six days for fuel, and has switched to bicycles to get around.

Said the housewife: "The situation is quite sad. Imagine how much the low wages workers are suffering…We are gifted to stay in this blessed country."

Members of the media outside Changi Airport's VIP Complex on July 14, 2022. PHOTO: The Straits Times

Also at the airport was Sri Lankan-born engineer Arulampalam Ramasthanan, 38, a Singapore citizen since 2009.

He said life for his family in Sri Lanka had been tough the last few months, and he wanted to make this known to the president if he could.

ALSO READ: Sri Lankan president flees country before scheduled resignation

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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