South Asia

'Baseless': India Denies Claims it Helped Gotabaya Rajapaksa Flee Sri Lanka

The Indian high commission was quick to issue tweets dismissing any reports that New Delhi helped Gotabaya Rajapaksa or his brother Basil leave Sri Lanka.

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New Delhi: After Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa left for the Maldives in a military aircraft, India denied that media reports that it had facilitated the travel as “baseless” and “speculative”.

The Sri Lankan air force confirmed that it had provided an aircraft for President Rajapaksa, his wife and two other security officials to fly from Katunayake International Airport to the Maldives.

This effectively signals the lowest point for the Rajapaksa political dynasty, which has had to face the wrath of months of people’s protests seeking the resignation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa for the disastrous handling of the economy, which has seen Sri Lanka going through its worst crisis since independence.

The Air Force claimed that the flight was given in accordance “with the powers vested in an Executive President in the Constitution of Sri Lanka, at the request of the existing Government, subject to the full approval of the Ministry of Defence and subject to immigration, customs and all other laws at the BIA”.

The prime minister’s office also confirmed that Rajapaksa had left the country.

As per Daily Mirror, Rajapaksa landed at Velena International Airport at 3:07 am, with the Maldivian capital under a heavy blanket of security.

Maldivian speaker Mohamed Nasheed had earlier been brought in by Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as the “coordinator” to secure foreign aid, with most countries reluctant to provide funds, worried over Colombo’s inability to pay back. It is widely believed that Nasheed facilitated President Rajapaksa’s travel to the Maldives.

While Rajapaksa had promised to hand over his resignation by July 13, he had yet to step down when he left the country. The president had promised to give up his position after protestors swarmed into the presidential palace on July 9 and took over the complex, marking the climax of the marches and demonstrations by ordinary people dissatisfied with the continuous fuel shortages and skyrocketing prices.

The Indian high commission was quick to issue tweets dismissing any reports that New Delhi helped him or his brother Basil Rajapaksa leave Sri Lanka.

“High Commission categorically denies baseless and speculative media reports that India facilitated the recent reported travel of @gotabayar @Realbrajapaksa out of Sri Lanka,” it posted on Wednesday morning.

Echoing the earlier response to the July 9 developments, the Indian high commissioner reiterated that “India will continue to support the people of Sri Lanka as they seek to realize their aspirations for prosperity and progress through democratic means and values, established democratic institutions and constitutional framework”.

The speculation about India’s role had been going on since the takeover of the Presidential Palace on Saturday by protestors. Earlier on Monday, former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa had been stopped from leaving Colombo after immigration officials stalled his departure.