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 pm local time. , according to a military source.
The source added that immigration officials refused to process passports issued to them by presidential aides because Rajapaksa and his family were not physically present at the cross-checks and, in the end, the flight departed without the president and his family on board.
Another attempt was made to get 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 Rajapaks refused to queue for the flight and showed up at person at immigration office to check passport.
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.
Rajapaksa is due to officially leave his post on Wednesday after he was forced to step down after months of protests against the devastating economic crisis 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.
The current location of Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka is unknown. On Tuesday, the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) denied reports that he was currently in a private residence owned by Air Force Chief Sudarshana Patirana, according to a statement by the SLAF.
The US Air Force issued a rebuttal after a video released by a former police officer claimed the president was staying at a private home owned by an Air Force commander. The Air Force claimed that the report was not true and called it propaganda intended to tarnish the image of the Air Force and its leader.
The sharp escalation of unrest could spell the end of the political dynasty of the Rajapaksa family, which has ruled Sri Lanka for much of the past two decades.
His failure to leave Sri Lanka has cast doubt on the timing of his departure from office, as his planned resignation would leave Rajapaksa without presidential immunity, potentially subjecting him to multiple legal charges and reduced security.