Sri Lanka president hits airport standoff in escape attempt

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COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s embattled president was trapped in his own nation on Tuesday (Jul 12), with airport immigration officers blocking his passage to safety overseas, according to government sources.

Following widespread rallies against him over the country’s unparalleled economic crisis, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has offered to retire on Wednesday, paving the way for a “peaceful transition of power.”

Officials say the 73-year-old leader departed his official residence in Colombo shortly before tens of thousands of protestors overran it on Saturday and intended to travel to Dubai.

Rajapaksa has immunity from arrest as president, and he is thought to want to travel abroad before stepping down to avoid being detained.

However, immigration inspectors refused to go to the VIP suite to stamp his passport, while he insisted on not utilizing the public facilities for fear of retaliation from other airport customers.

After missing four aircraft that would have brought them to the United Arab Emirates, the president and his wife spent the night at a military base near the main international airport.

Basil Rajapaksa, Rajapaksa’s youngest brother who quit as finance minister in April, missed his own flight to Dubai early Tuesday following a similar standoff with airport employees.

Basil attempted to use the paid concierge service for business travelers, but airport and immigration employees informed him that the fast track option would be discontinued effective immediately.

“Some other passengers objected to Basil boarding their flight,” an airport employee told AFP. “It was a stressful scenario, so he rushed out of the airport.”

Basil, a dual citizen of the United States, had to seek a new passport after abandoning his at the presidential palace when the Rajapaksas fled to flee crowds on Saturday, according to a diplomatic source.

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