'Don’t think Gotabaya Rajapaksa will be returning soon', says Sri Lankan President Wickremesinghe

ColomboEdited By: C KrishnasaiUpdated: Aug 01, 2022, 05:20 PM IST
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Wickremesinghe has remained in contact with Rajapaksa to deal with administrative issues and other government business

“Don’t think it is the right time for Gotabaya Rajapaksa to return,” Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe has said, adding that his return to the country may stoke political tensions, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.

“Don't believe it's the time for him to return," Wickremesinghe said in an interview with the WSJ, adding, "I have no indication of him returning soon."

The New York City-based newspaper further reported that Wickremesinghe has remained in contact with Rajapaksa to deal with administrative handover issues and other government business.

Gotabaya escaped from the crisis-hit nation on July 13 after his official residence was stormed by thousands of protesters who had demonstrated for months against the island nation’s painful economic crisis. Days later, Wickremesinghe was elected by the parliament after securing a comfortable majority.

According to reports, Gotabaya first fled to the Maldives and from there, he went to Singapore. Reports suggest that he has been staying on a short-term visit pass since July 14, though he has not been provided, nor guaranteed asylum.

The Straits Times newspaper reported that Rajapaksa’s 14-day visit pass was extended, allowing him to stay until August 11.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka is currently seeking a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after the World Bank refused to offer fresh funding without "deep structural reforms."

On Friday, the finance ministry said that Sri Lanka had resumed bailout discussions with IMF after the new government took office, describing the talks as “highly successful”.

Sri Lanka is bankrupt, and its economy is in tatters. The latest figures released on Friday showed year-on-year inflation in July hitting a record 60.8 per cent. The country has $12 billion overseas debt with private creditors.

(With inputs from agencies)