Former Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Friday returned to the island nation after fleeing in July, reported Daily Mirror.
He returned amid a heavy security presence, landing at the Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo. Rajapaksa, who was welcomed by his party MLAs, will be staying at a state bungalow in Colombo where a large team will be appointed to maintain security, according to the newspaper.
Sanjeeva Edirimanna, an MP and spokesperson for Rajapaksa’s party, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) said that the political outfit did not ask him to come back but the former president has all the right to return, reported The Guardian.
“What we discussed was providing special protection to him,” Edirimanna added. “President or not, he is entitled to security as the former defence secretary.”
Father Amila Jeewantha Peiris, one of the leaders of the demonstration against Rajapaksa, called his return shameful.
“People will not oppose his coming back to Sri Lanka,” he told The Guardian. “I don’t think that there will be protests, but his return will definitely create more tension. He is one of the people who are responsible for the chaos in Sri Lanka.”
Rajapaksa had fled Sri Lanka during widespread protests over the country’s biggest economic distress since its independence in 1948.
The protests against Rajapaksa had been going on for few months before he fled but they flared up on July 9 when protestors stormed his official house demanding that he resign. The protestors had also broken into the home of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in an affluent Colombo neighbourhood and set it on fire.
Demonstrators had accused Rajapaksa of siphoning money and mismanaging the economy. While all members of his politically-powerful family had been forced to resign due to public pressure, Rajapaksa had clung to power.
Sri Lanka, a country of 2.2 crore people, has run out of foreign exchange reserves limiting essential imports of fuel, food and medicine since March. The island nation’s inflation rate touched 64.3% on a year-on-year basis in August, while food inflation shot up to 93.7%, according to Bloomberg.
The economic meltdown also led to Sri Lanka defaulting on its $51-billion (over Rs 4 lakh crore) foreign debt in April.