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Sri Lanka President Gotabaya flees in military plane from Colombo to Maldives

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his wife arrived in Maldives early this morning after fleeing from Colombo

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his wife arrived in Maldives early this morning after fleeing from Colombo on board a military aircraft and were received by Maldivian government representatives at the Velana airport in Male.

President Rajapaksa, his wife and two bodyguards boarded the Male-bound military aircraft from Colombo international airport late last night.

Defence officials of the island nation said that Mr Rajapaksa requested them for a plane last night and that they were "obligated" to provide him one. Mr Rajapaksa continues to be the supreme commander of the defence forces as President.

On arrival in the Maldives, President Rajapaksa, his wife and bodyguards were driven to an undisclosed location under police escort, according to officials.

India stays clear

Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka has refuted reports which claimed that India helped President Rajapaksa and his brother Basil flee the country.

"High Commission categorically denies baseless and speculative media reports that India facilitated the recent reported travel of @gotabayar @Realbrajapaksa  out of Sri Lanka. It is reiterated that India will continue to support the people of Sri Lanka," it tweeted.

As President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa enjoys immunity from arrest, and he wanted to leave the country before the scheduled date of announcing his resignation on Wednesday. He feared that he would be put under arrest after a massive wave of protesters stormed his official residence in Colombo forcing him to flee to a military base. 

The Sri Lanka president and his wife missed four flights that could have taken them to the United Arab Emirates on Monday night as airport officials prevented them from boarding the plane through the VIP route. The couple then spent the night at a military base next to the main Bandaranaike International airport.

His younger brother Basil Rajapaksa, who served as finance minister, is also reported to have fled the country.

After news of the Rajapaksa family’s attempts to flee emerged on Tuesday, a motion was filed to the supreme court seeking an order to prohibit Basil Rajapaksa, his older brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was forced to resign as prime minister in May, the prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and several others who served in president Gotabaya’s Rajapaksa’s regime from being allowed to leave the country.

Gotabaya had promised to resign on Wednesday and clear the way for a "peaceful transition of power". Sri Lanka's opposition parties have stepped up efforts to form an all-party government and subsequently elect a new President on July 20.

Also read: Colombo airport staff block President Gotabaya’s bid to board Dubai flight, now eyes escape via sea route