Gotabaya All Smiles as Loyalists Greet Him while Lankans Face Power Cuts, Rising Food Costs

As Gotabaya Rajapaksa landed in the Bandaranaike International Airport his supporters rushed to greet the former president late on Friday night. Videos and pictures shared by Sri Lankan media outlets and reporters showed Gotabaya Rajapaksa being accorded a warm welcome by his supporters.

There were also pictures of Gotabaya Rajapaksa with former first lady Ioma Rajapaksa who also fled along with him in July fearing reprisal at the hands of the Sri Lankan masses. They first fled to Maldives but left for Singapore within days.

Gotabaya returned after the Singapore government chose not to extend his medical visa. He is awaiting the US government’s approval for his US Green Card extension.

There was conjecture that Rajapaksa would eventually return to Sri Lanka but it was unclear when.

The Sri Lankan masses who organised the protests at Galle Face in Colombo to protest against the ongoing economic crisis starting in March did not want him to return and demanded he and his brother, former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, removed themselves from Sri Lanka’s political scene.

But soon after Ranil Wickremesinghe was elected as president by fellow MPs of the Sri Lankan parliament, he pulled the plug on the protests. Ranil was chosen as president on July 20. Within July 22, Sri Lankan police along with other security personnel started dismantling the camps at Galle Face asking protesters to move their base elsewhere.

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Sri Lankans were also left unimpressed with the decision taken by the MPs. Many view Ranil Wickremesinghe with suspicion and it has also earned him the moniker of ‘the Fox’, given that despite adversities he ensures his political career survives. He also earned the nickname of ‘Ranil Rajapaksa’ for his closeness to the Rajapaksas.

It is however clear that the Rajapaksas continue to enjoy protection and immunity despite the masses accusing them of mismanagement that led to the financial crisis.

The timing of the arrival of the former president is also noteworthy. Rajapaksa returned only after the Sri Lankan government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reached a staff-level agreement as the international lender agreed to give the country a $2.9 billion loan.

Meanwhile, food prices have skyrocketed in Sri Lanka. The All Ceylon Bakery Owners Association said that the price of a loaf of bread will be sold at 300 Sri Lankan Rupees.

The National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NSWDB) earlier announced that Colombo residents will have no water for 18 hours. Power cuts have also been announced for September 4 and September 5 and citizens have been told to brace for at least 2 hours of power cuts during this time period.

(with inputs from Daily Mirror)

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