The Singapore government has allowed former Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to extend his stay in the country for another 14 days after he fled the crisis-hit island nation, according to a media report on Wednesday.
The report on the extension of Rajapaksa’s visit pass came a day after Sri Lanka’s Cabinet spokesman Bandula Gunawardena said the ex-president was not hiding and is expected to return to the country from Singapore.
Rajapaksa, 73, arrived in Singapore on July 14 on a “private visit” from the Maldives after he fled his country to escape a popular uprising against his government’s economic mismanagement. He first fled to the Maldives on July 13 and from there he proceeded to Singapore the next day.
The Straits Times newspaper reported that Rajapaksa’s short-term visit pass, which was issued when he arrived here on a “private visit” two weeks ago, has been extended by another 14 days.
After Rajapaksa landed in Singapore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here confirmed that he had been allowed entry on a “private visit.” The ministry stressed that the ex-president had not asked for asylum.
Singapore generally does not grant requests for asylum, the spokesman had said.
The ex-president was issued a 14-day visit pass when he arrived at Changi Airport on a Saudia flight from the Maldives on July 14. He initially stayed at a hotel in the city centre, but is believed to have moved to a private residence, according to the report.
He has not been seen in public in Singapore.
When asked about Rajapaksa at a weekly Sri Lankan Cabinet media briefing, Cabinet Spokesman Gunawardena told reporters in Colombo on Tuesday that the former president was not in hiding and he is expected to return from Singapore.
Gunawardena, who is also the Minister for Transport and Highways and Mass Media, said he does not believe the former president fled the country, and is in hiding.
He, however, did not offer any other details of Rajapaksa’s possible return.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court on Wednesday barred former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, ex-finance minister Basil Rajapaksa and former Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal from leaving the country till August 2, extending an overseas travel ban that was imposed till July 28.
The petitioners claimed that the three persons were directly responsible for the unsustainability of Sri Lanka’s foreign debt, its debt default and the current economic crisis.
On July 15, Sri Lanka’s apex court had barred the trio from leaving the country till July 28. That ban has now been extended till August 2, according to news portal Colombo Gazette.
Sri Lanka has seen months of mass unrest over the worst economic crisis and many blame the former government led by Rajapaksa and his family for mishandling the island nation’s economy. The government declared bankruptcy in mid-April by refusing to honour its international debt.
Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million people, is under the grip of an unprecedented economic turmoil, the worst in seven decades, leaving millions struggling to buy food, medicine, fuel and other essentials. Sri Lanka’s total foreign debt stands at USD 51 billion.
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