SL President directed to ensure Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s return

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) ruled on Tuesday that former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled the country in July amid the unrest triggered by the ongoing economic crisis, should be allowed to return to the country.

Writing to President Ranil Wickremesinghe, the HRCSL stated that Rajapaksa is entitled to certain privileges and benefits under law and the government should take necessary steps to ensure his security to return.

The Commission headed by a retired Supreme Court judge recommended the government to take all necessary steps to assess the threat situation and provide Rajapaksa and his family access to return whenever he wants.

Following the three-month long street violence over the economic crisis that led to the acute shortages of food, fuel, electricity and cooking gas, Rajapaksa announced his resignation on July 9 and fled the country on July 13.

He first went to the Maldives and then to Singapore.

On the request of the Sri Lankan government, Rajapaksa and his wife were allowed to enter Thailand where he currently resides.

A former dual citizen of Sri Lanka and the US, Rajapaksa was refused visa by Washington as he had to give up his American citizenship before the 2019 presidential election.

Sri Lankan election law prohibits foreign nationals from running for presidency.

Last week, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party formed by Rajapaksa family including Gotabaya’s brothers — former Prime Minister Mahinda and former Finance minister Basil — had urged Wickremesinghe to facilitate the former President’s return to the country.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s safe return was one of the key deals to support Wickremesinghe in his presidency.

Earlier this month, Wickremesinghe had told media that it was not the right time for Gotabaya Rajapaksa to return as his presence could again inflame political tensions in the island nation.

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