Gotabaya Rajapaksa: Former Sri Lankan president warns he will return to crisis-hit country next week

Foreign Minister Ali Sabry told CNN late Wednesday that the Sri Lankan government had been informed of Rajapaksa’s return “through diplomatic channels.”

“Officially we have no return papers. He is a Sri Lankan citizen and can travel as he wishes,” Sabry said.

Rajapaksa’s estranged cousin Udayanga Weeratunga, a former Sri Lankan Ambassador to Russia, told reporters on Wednesday that the former leader would return on August 24.

Rajapaksa is in Thailand after fleeing Sri Lanka in July on a military plane bound for the Maldives, and then traveling to Singapore, days after angry protesters stormed his official residence and office.

He tendered his resignation in Singapore, as public anger grew because of his alleged mismanagement of the economy.

The former leader’s hasty exit is a historic moment for the country of 22 million, which has been ruled by members of the Rajapaksa family with a full hand for most of the past two decades.

Anger has been growing in Sri Lanka for months after the country’s foreign exchange reserves hit record lows, with dollars running out to pay for essential imports including food, medicine and fuel.

Rajapaksa’s brother Mahinda Rajapaksa was forced to resign as prime minister in May as public anger grew over the crisis.

His departure came on a day of unrest and violence that culminated in police imposing a nationwide curfew.

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe reportedly said in late July that it was “not the right time” for Gotabaya Rajapaksa to return to the country because it could inflame political tensions.