Several attempts by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and 15 of his close family and aides to leave Sri Lanka have failed due to procedural issues, top aviation sources have confirmed with the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS).
Rajapaksa, who took refuge at the Trincomalee Naval Base after fleeing the Presidential Palace on 09 July, flew back to Ratmalana Airbase on Monday (11) in two Bell 412 helicopters.
He then met with Service Chiefs and moved to the Katunayake Airbase by evening, Defence Officials told SBS’s Correspondent in Colombo.
A representative from the country’s Aviation Department has confirmed that Rajapaksa and his delegation were initially due to travel on SriLankan Airlines flight UL225 to Dubai, but Immigration Officers insisted that all members of the President’s close family and aides turn up at the immigration counter at Bandaranaike Airport to get their passports stamped.
Security considerations are preventing the President and his close family from appearing at the public immigration counters, Police and Airport Security Officials have told this outlet.
Immigration Officials in Sri Lanka have refused to work at the VIP or VVIP lounges at Bandaranaike airport since 09 July.
According to Airport sources, the Presidential group later attempted to board Etihad flight EY267, but missed that flight due to “Technical issues” with immigration.
Meanwhile, the Indian Government refused to allow a SriLankan Air Force AN32, carrying the President, to land at an Indian civilian airport.
Rajapaksa had to spend a night at the Katunayake Base trying to figure out how to get out safely, a Defence Official confirmed.
Rajapaksa, who gave up his United States (US) citizenship to contest and win the 2019 Presidential Election, had asked the US Embassy in Colombo for a visa for him to travel to California over the weekend but was refused, a US diplomatic source has confirmed.
His son, daughter-in-law and grandchild remain US citizens and still live there.
A diplomatic source told SBS the Embassy reminded Rajapaksa that a person who has renounced US citizenship cannot be given a visitor’s visa unless under very exceptional circumstances such as the death of an immediate family member or urgent medical treatment that is available only in the US.
“It was made very clear to him that there will be no visa for him. He could go there as a Head of State without a visa, but the current circumstances are different,” the Embassy Representative said.