According to the official, Rajapaksa and his wife flew to Male in the Maldives on a Sri Lankan Air Force AN32 military transport aircraft.
The local air traffic control service denied the plane’s request to land before the intervention of Majlis Speaker of the Maldives Parliament and former President Mohamed Nasheed, the official said. CNN has reached out to Nasheed for comment.
Rajapaksa’s aides arrived at Colombo airport on Monday with 15 passports belonging to the president and his family, including First Lady Yoma Rajapaksa, who had booked seats on a Sri Lankan Airlines flight to Dubai at 6:25 p.m. local time, according to a military source.
But immigration officials refused to process the passports issued to them by presidential aides because Rajapaksa and his family were not physically present at the cross-checks. As a result, the flight left without the president and his family on board, the source added.
Another attempt was made to put the family on an Etihad flight from Colombo to Abu Dhabi at 9:20 pm local time, the source said, but the same problem arose as the Rajapakses refused to join the state immigration authorities’ queue for the flight. . .
On both occasions, Rajapaksa’s family was in a nearby airport lounge awaiting confirmation that they could skip the line of members of the public on board, the source said.
On Tuesday, a video posted by a former police officer claimed Rajapaksa was staying at a private home owned by a high-ranking Air Force commander. The Sri Lankan Air Force denied the claim, calling it propaganda intended to tarnish the image of the corps and its commander.
Forced to retire
Wednesday’s scheduled resignation of Rajapaksa, which follows months of protests over the devastating economic crisis in the country, strips him of his presidential immunity and could potentially expose him to a series of legal charges in the country.
Vivid footage posted on social media shows demonstrators singing protest songs and chanting slogans calling for Rajapaksa to step down. Other photos show groups of demonstrators setting up barbecue pits to grill and cook food.
Reportage provided by journalist Rukshana Rizvi.