Sri Lankan president Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Sunday that it was not the right time for former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to return to Sri Lanka.
Wickremesinghe in an interview with the Wall Street Journal said that Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s return could inflame tensions in Sri Lanka.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa, his wife and former first lady Ioma Rajapaksa and former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa along with some members of the Rajapaksa family fled Sri Lanka fearing reprisal at the hands of the people.
“I don’t believe it’s the time for him to return. I have no indication of him returning soon,” Wickremesinghe was quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal.
Sri Lankan masses hold Rajapaksas guilty of economic mismanagement which they claim have led to the collapse of the Sri Lankan economy.
The Rajapaksas fled to Maldives on July 13 and then flew to Singapore where Gotabaya Rajapaksa has extended his short-stay visa allowing him to stay until August 11.
Wickremesinghe said he is in touch with Gotabaya Rajapaksa to deal with administrative handover issues and other government business, the Wall Street Journal said.
Speculations regarding his return rose after Sri Lanka’s cabinet spokesman Bandula Gunawardena last week said Gotabaya wishes to return to Sri Lanka.
‘Light at the End of the Tunnel’
Wickremesinghe told the Wall Street Journal that the island-nation has experienced the worst of its economic crisis.
“I think we’ve already hit the bottom,” Ranil said, while adding that the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ is now visible and what matters is how fast Sri Lanka gets there.
He, however, was quick to point out that it will be months before Sri Lankans see their economic circumstances improve.
Wickremesinghe has now shifted his operations to the President’s Residence in Colombo which protesters took over on July 13 as a mark of the protest against the Rajapaksa-led government.
The president said that discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are ongoing and a staff-level agreement would be reached by the end of August. Following that Sri Lanka will be able to hold talks with sovereign bondholders and bilateral creditors.
However, a preliminary agreement would require IMF board approval for funds disbursement - which is a process that could take months.
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