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Sri Lanka’s ousted leader hopes to return home: party

Sri Lanka’s deposed former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa is seeking to return home from his exile in Thailand and has asked his successor to guarantee his safety, his party announced Friday.

Rajapaksa fled the island last month after a huge crowd stormed his house, capping months of white-hot public anger over the island nation’s unprecedented economic crisis.

The 73-year-old was forced to flee his official residence with the help of the military and eventually issued his resignation from Singapore.

He has since flown to Thailand but authorities there have warned him not to venture out of his hotel for his own safety, keeping him virtually under hotel arrest.

Rajapaksa’s youngest brother Basil, the former finance minister, met with the deposed leader’s successor Ranil Wickremesinghe Thursday and requested protection to allow his return, their party said in a statement.

“Basil Rajapaksa requested the president to make arrangements for the former president to return home,” the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party said in a statement.

“The main demand of the SLPP is the safety and security of the former president.”

The SLPP has an overwhelming majority in parliament and Wickremesinghe’s administration relies on the party’s lawmakers to govern.

There was no immediate reaction from the new government regarding the request.

Rajapaksa came to power promising “vistas of prosperity and splendour” in 2019 but saw his popularity plummet as the country’s 22 million people endured fuel shortages, blackouts and runaway inflation.

After resigning half-way through his five-year term, Rajapaksa has lost his presidential immunity and could face prosecution for corruption.

Several cases before the Sri Lankan courts stalled after he became president in 2019 but could be revived if he returns.

Sri Lanka’s constitution guarantees bodyguards, a vehicle and housing for former presidents. AFP

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