The Sri Lankan president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has made a failed attempt to flee the country as airport staff stood in his way and forced him to beat a humiliating retreat.
Rajapaksa, who is due to officially resign on Wednesday after months of demonstrations calling for him to step down, was reportedly trying to escape to Dubai on Monday night.
Officials said immigration staff prevented the president from going to the VIP area of the airport to stamp his passport and he would not go through the ordinary queues for fear of being mobbed by the public.
As a result, Rajapaksa reportedly missed four flights to the UAE, and he, his wife and a dozen other family members and close aides spent the night at a nearby military base.
It appears that the president has attempted to follow several avenues of escape in recent days but all have proved futile. The Indian government reportedly refused permission for a Sri Lankan military plane carrying the president to land at an Indian civilian airport, while the US embassy refused to grant him a visitor visa, according to US embassy sources who spoke to local media.
Rajapaksa, who lived in the US for years and has a son and grandchild there, gave up his dual US citizenship in order to run for president, which means he is now ineligible for a visitor visa.
According to officials who spoke to AFP, Rajapaksa was now considering using a navy patrol craft to try to flee the island, to either the Maldives or India and then on to Dubai, and he and his entourage had left the military base in two helicopters on Tuesday and headed to the port of Trincomalee.
While he is still president, Rajapaksa enjoys immunity from arrest. It is believed he wants to go abroad before stepping down to avoid the possibility of being detained. He is accused of overseeing corruption and economic mismanagement that have bankrupted the country and triggered the worst financial crisis on record.
Source: Guardian NG