'Here to see a criminal', 'fugitive who devastated our economy': Sri Lankans in Singapore criticise Gotabaya

A Saudi Airlines flight carrying Rajapaksa arrived in Singapore from the Maldives in the evening and soon Singapore's Foreign Ministry confirmed his presence in the country on a 'private visit'.

Published: 14th July 2022 08:49 PM  |   Last Updated: 14th July 2022 08:49 PM   |  A+A-

Former Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa leaves after addressing parliament during the ceremonial inauguration of the session, in Colombo. (Photo | AP)

By PTI

SINGAPORE: "We are here to see a criminal" and a "fugitive who devastated our economy," some two dozen Sri Lankans living in Singapore said on Thursday as they showed up at the Changi International Airport after hearing that President Gotabya Rajapaksa who fled the country to the Maldives will land here.

A Saudi Airlines flight carrying Rajapaksa arrived in Singapore from the Maldives in the evening and soon Singapore's Foreign Ministry confirmed his presence in the country on a "private visit" and there was no request for asylum from him.

Rajapaksa has not asked for asylum and neither has he been granted any asylum.

Singapore generally does not grant requests for asylum, the foreign ministry spokesperson added.

The Sri Lankans who arrived at the airport described the 73-year-old Rajapaksa as a "fugitive", "corrupt", and "a war criminal", outpouring their anger over the president's "U-turn from his promise of resignation" on Wednesday and escape from Colombo to the Maldives, triggering a fresh wave of protests in the island nation.

Rajapaksa, who enjoys immunity from prosecution while he is president, fled the country without resigning to avoid the possibility of arrest by the new government.

Reacting to Rajapaksa's presence here, a Sri Lankan man based in Singapore said: "Singapore home minister said on September 21 that there is no place for asylum."

"Why is he here then?," asked the man who refused to reveal his identity.

A Sri Lankan origin Singaporean entrepreneur said, "So is he here to attend a rally or is he here for a long term is a question. And why is he being allowed here? He is a criminal, he is wanted for war crimes. How can he be allowed in a country like Singapore?" She said the president could "run but can not hide" from Sri Lankans and their friends across the world.

"Sri Lankans all over the world and friends of Sri Lanka will always support the country for what injustice he has done. As a country, Singapore should take a stand that they do not accept such criminals, presidents fleeing from a country where they have done so much damage, destroyed the economy," the entrepreneur, who wanted to remain anonymous, said.

She further said that Singapore government should set the right example by standing up and saying that they would not allow such people in their country.

Another Sri Lankan citizen living in Singapore for the last 15 years said Rajapaksa and his entire family were responsible for ruining the island nation's economy.

"They have to be held accountable," the person, who refused to divulge his name, said.

"The fact that he has fled the country after making such a mess is very unfair. He has devastated it and he is not paying the price for it. It is the people there who are paying the price," said the person from the finance industry.

Another Sri Lankan, who has been living in Singapore for a very long time, said he was really "disturbed" by what was unfolding in his homeland.

"I have come here to see a glimpse of this criminal of a leader. I have been here for 15 years. Sri Lanka is the best-educated community and society and I believe it was and still is. The leadership can make or break the country, we have realised that now," he said.

He said the leader had left behind a legacy of "corruption, a lot of embezzlement" who had now left on Lankan citizens the responsibility of bringing the country out of crisis.

"Now, we have to do something about it, whether you are in Sri Lanka or outside, it is (your responsibility) to build the island nation which the world knows as former Sri Lanka," he stressed.

He further said that he would like to think that the president was going to be "upheld".

"I have no reservations about Singapore's stand. Singapore sees things fairly," he said.

Rajapaksa, who enjoys immunity from prosecution while he is president, fled the country without resigning to avoid the possibility of arrest by the new government.

Sri Lanka, a country 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.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe last week said Sri Lanka is now a bankrupt country.



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