Sri Lankan rights body urges Wickremesinghe to provide protection to Gotabaya and family
"It is alleged in the complaint that Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his family, who are citizens of this country, are unable to return to the country due to prevailing threats to their lives," the rights body
COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's top human rights body has urged President Ranil Wickremesinghe to provide adequate protection to the family of his predecessor Gotabaya Rajapaksa as guaranteed by the Constitution and facilitate the former president's return to the crisis-hit country.
In a letter, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) on Monday said that it had received several complaints alleging that the former president had tendered his resignation under threat and coercion and that the government had failed to provide adequate security to him during this period.
"And now, the ex-president and his family intend to return to the country. The complaint is based on the premise that the ex-president and family cannot return to the country due to the prevailing threats they face and that it violates fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution for every citizen," it said.
The HRCSL also cited Article 14 (1) (i) of the constitution, which claims that "every citizen is entitled to the freedom to return to Sri Lanka.
"It is alleged in the complaint that Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his family, who are citizens of this country, are unable to return to the country due to prevailing threats to their lives," the rights body said.
"It is recommended that the Government of Sri Lanka takes all necessary steps to assess the threat situation and provide the ex-president with the security protection provided under the law for an ex-president to return to the country whenever he makes such a request," the letter said.
However, there is no confirmation if Rajapaksa would return to the country on Wednesday as predicted by his cousin Udayanga Weeratunga last week.
Rajapaksa, 73, fled the country and resigned last month in the face of a popular uprising against his government for mismanaging the island nation's economy. He is currently staying in a hotel in Bangkok with his wife Loma Rajapaksa.
President Wickremesinghe has reached out to Rajapaksa to finalise arrangements and facilitate his return to the crisis-hit country, the Daily Mirror newspaper reported on Monday, citing highly-placed sources.
Last week, the main Opposition party Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) said Rajapaksa has the right to return to the country, but he must be tried for allegations of misuse of funds since he does not enjoy legal immunity.
Sri Lanka's Constitution allows privileges to former presidents, including personal security and an office with staff.
SJB has accused Rajapaksa's government of misusing the USD 1 billion loan facility extended by India as part of its financial assistance to help the cash-strapped island nation deal with its unprecedented economic crisis.
Rajapaksa fled to the Maldives last month and thereafter to Singapore. He entered Singapore on a medical visa and had it extended twice to remain there as much as possible.
As his visa could not be extended further, Rajapaksa and his wife left for Thailand and were assured he could remain there for 90 days. The Thai government had made it clear to Rajapaksa that he should not engage in political activities while staying in the country.