Former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was ousted last year over his government’s mishandling of the country’s economy, has returned from Dubai, his first foreign trip since returning to Sri Lanka four months ago.
Rajapaksa and his wife Ayumah arrived at Bandaranaike International Airport here from Dubai on Thursday, the Lanka Daily Mirror reported, citing the airport duty manager and a spokesman for the airport’s immigration department.
Reports say they arrived from Dubai on Emirates flight EK-650.
According to news portal newsfirst.lk, during his visit to Dubai, Rajapaksa visited the exotic animal farm called “Fameland”.
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Rajapaksa, 73, fled Sri Lanka in July on a Sri Lanka Air Force plane for the Maldives, as the country was mired in its worst economic and humanitarian crisis since independence from Britain in 1948.
He then traveled to Singapore, from where he handed in his resignation on 14 July.
A few weeks later, he flew to Thailand to seek temporary accommodation.
Thailand said Rajapaksa could stay in the country for 90 days because he still held a diplomatic passport.
However, he is not allowed to engage in political activities in Thailand.
He was confined to a hotel surrounded by security guards.
In September 2022, he was granted special security protection and a state bungalow upon his return to Sri Lanka from Thailand.
Rajapaksa, a former military officer, became president in November 2019.
Rajapaksa, a former dual citizen of Sri Lanka and the United States, had to renounce his American citizenship before the 2019 presidential election.
Under Sri Lanka’s constitution, dual citizenship holders are barred from running for election.
However, his wife Ioma, son Manoj, daughter-in-law Sewwandi and grandson are all US citizens.
A corruption case against him when he was a top defense official was withdrawn soon after he was elected in 2019.
Earlier this month, Rajapaksa applied to restore his U.S. citizenship after failing to obtain asylum in any country, The Sunday Times reported.
However, the U.S. government has not yet considered the request, according to the newspaper.
The Rajapaksa family has dominated Sri Lankan politics for more than two decades.
Mahinda Rajapaksa, the 76-year-old patriarch and Gotabaya’s older brother, was the country’s president and prime minister.
His younger brother, Basil Rajapaksa, 71, was a former finance minister.
Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million people, is going through its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948, sparked by a severe lack of foreign exchange reserves.
In September, the International Monetary Fund announced that, according to the preliminary agreement, it will provide Sri Lanka with a loan of about US$2.9 billion within four years to help the bankrupt island nation survive the worst economic crisis and protect people’s livelihood.
The country is also expected to restructure its $29 billion worth of debt, with Japan expected to coordinate with other creditor nations, including China, on the issue.
In mid-April, Sri Lanka announced its international debt default due to the foreign exchange crisis.
The country owes $51 billion in foreign debt, of which $28 billion must be repaid by 2027.
Sri Lanka has seen street protests against the government since early April due to its mishandling of the economic crisis.
The severe shortage of foreign exchange reserves has led to long queues for daily necessities such as fuel and gas, power outages, and skyrocketing food prices, making the people miserable.