Rajapaksa leaves Singapore

People watch as protesters take part in a march to mark one month since a massive protest forced then Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country and step down, amid the country's economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, August 9, 2022. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Former Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has left Singapore, the city-state’s immigration office said, after his social visit pass expired.

“The Immigration & Checkpoints Authority confirms that Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa left Singapore on 11 August 2022,” the office said in reply to an AFP query yesterday.

It did not say where the former leader was headed to but the Thai foreign ministry, as well as a source in Colombo, said on Wednesday he was seeking a new safe haven in Thailand.

“His Singapore visa runs out on Thursday,” a close associate of Rajapaksa said in Colombo.

“He had applied for an extension, but it had not come through as of Wednesday morning.”

The source said Rajapaksa now planned to go to Thailand for a short stay and return to Singapore.

On Wednesday, foreign ministry spokesperson Tanee Sangrat said Rajapaksa is set to visit Thailand temporarily and does not intend to seek political asylum in the country.

Thailand has received a request from the current Sri Lanka government for Rajapaksa to enter the country, according to Tanee on Wednesday.

The former president holds a diplomatic passport, which allows him entry into Thailand without a visa for 90 days.

“The stay is temporary in nature with the aim of onward travel. No political asylum has been sought,” Tanee said.

He said the ministry has no information on Rajapaksa’s arrival date.

“The important thing is this doesn’t cause any problem for Thailand,” Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai told local media in response to a question about whether Rajapaksa’s presence could cause tension with Sri Lanka’s government.

“The foreign ministry doesn’t see a problem and there is no objection from the government.”

The Sri Lankan government supports the visit, he added.

“His allies and many of his colleagues are in the government,” Pramudwinai said.

Rajapaksa fled to Singapore via the Maldives shortly after angry protesters stormed his official residence in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo on July 9.

He formally resigned as president after arriving in Singapore on July 14.

There is no cause to believe that Sri Lankan people in Thailand will cause a problem for us,” Pramudwinai said.

“It’s normal to escape heat for a cooler place during tough times.”

Officials in Sri Lanka have said the ousted leader is expected to return to the country but have given few details on when that will happen.

“Former presidents are entitled to certain facilities from Sri Lanka’s government,” Cabinet spokesperson Bandula Gunewardana said yesterday. — AFP/Bloomberg

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