Skip to main content

Human Rights

Sri Lankan president flees country on plane following citizens' palace raid

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, his wife and two bodyguards left the country on a Sri Lankan Air Force plane, an immigration official told Reuters. Another government source said that he would stop in the Maldives before heading to Sinapore

Sri Lanka
EEUU pide a líderes de Sri Lanka actuar para buscar soluciones a la crisis del país | AFP

July 13, 2022 9:40pm

Updated: July 14, 2022 10:28am

The president of Sri Lanka and his family flew out of the country early morning Wednesday after being forcibly ejected from his official residence by a rowdy mob last weekend.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, his wife and two bodyguards left the country on a Sri Lankan Air Force plane, an immigration official told Reuters. Another government source said that he would stop in the Maldives before heading to Sinapore.

Rajapaksa was set officially step down later that day, a promise he to appease the massive group of protesters that flooded the presidential palace after months of building economic hardship, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic and how food prices rose after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Videos showed people pouring into the compound, swimming in its pool and lounging in the president’s bed. Rajapaksa was seen fleeing on a boat.

According to a United Nations survey, 70% of Sri Lankan households have been cutting back on food consumption: food price inflation is running at around 57%. In addition, the country of 22 million people is out of fuel, and new deliveries are irregular.

The Rajapaksa family has long dominated Sri Lankan politics after Gotabaya’s older brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, led the Sri Lankan military in a brutal offensive against the Tamil Tiger insurgency. The elder brother served as president from 2005 to 2015 and prime minister beginning 2019, with Gotabaya as president.

Mahinda was accused of nepotism, as he filled multiple minister positions with unqualified family members. The family almost mismanaged the economy, expanding the military even in peacetime and signing up for major Chinese-funded infrastructure projects it could not afford, according to the Washington Post.

The Rajapaksas were ousted one by one this year as the economy spiraled out of control, including Mahinda in May after violent clashes with protesters.

Demonstrators were furious the former president had slipped out instead of facing justice, reported the New York Post.

“We expected him behind bars – not to escape to a tropical island! What kind of justice is that?” said Sithara Sedaraliyanage, a 28-year-old protester.

“This is the first time people in Sri Lanka have risen like this against a president. We want some accountability.”

Parliament is expected to name a new full-time president next week. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, an ally of the Rajapaksas, was left in charge as acting president.