India rejected Gotabaya Rajapaksa's request for a safe getaway?
Lankan President Rajapaksa, who is expected to honour his promise to resign on July 13, was looking at taking a Sri Lankan Air Force AN 32 or a commercial flight to land in India.
NEW DELHI: With the Sri Lankan Presidential Palace under occupation by angry protesters since July 9, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had sought time till July 13 to resign. It now appears he may have set the timeline so as to plan his safe getaway by then. Gotabaya is weighing all options for fleeing.
Since he surrendered his American citizenship in 2019, finding a safe passage back to the US is proving to be difficult, though reports suggest he applied for a US visa recently. CNN reported that he sought to take a flight to Dubai on Monday. But the immigration staff didn’t facilitate his boarding through the ‘silk route’ a fast track route for VIPs. His brother Basil, too, attempted to flee to Washington via Dubai from Colombo through the silk route and had six boarding cards for an Emirates flight.
The silk route has since been put on hold to prevent politicians from fleeing. According to sources in Sri Lanka, Gotabaya even sought India’s support in facilitating his exit. He was looking at taking a Sri Lankan Air Force AN 32 or a commercial flight to land in India.
“When India nipped their proposal to land on a Sri Lankan Air Force aircraft, another one was made through a commercial airline. The plan was to board a Sri Lankan Airways (UL-229 CMB-KWI) aircraft. After being airborne, this aircraft would be diverted in the garb of a ‘technical stop’ at Cochin airport, where Gotabaya and his entourage would be allowed to disembark and leave. Permission was needed from India as most members of his team did not have Indian visas. However, India refused to be part of the plan,’’ said sources in Colombo.
It wasn’t clear where Gotabaya was headed but the call sign of the aircraft he was planning to board (via a diversion in Cochin) was for a Colombo- Kuwait flight. For its part, the Ministry of External Affairs refused to comment.
Meanwhile, a petition has been filed in the Sri Lankan Supreme Court seeking travel restrictions on the Rajapaksas and other biggies to prevent them from leaving the country.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar brushed aside questions on giving asylum to the Rajapaksa clan, saying India’s focus right now is on Lanka’s economic situation. “We are not involved in the other matters,” he said.