Kapila Punchihewa, in Mawbima, July 22 2022, where the title runs thus: “The story of the running man Gotabaya unfolded. Exclusive”
- President Pleads for safety with Sajith whom he sidelined a few weeks ago.
⦁ All powerful President is shaken and runs for safety from place to place. 18 million for a luxury hotel in Malé
⦁ Indian USA and European Nations show the “cold shoulder’.
- No place to go at home or the world
President Gotabaya Rajapakse was elected with 69,lacks of the votes. He was only in office for 969 days before abruptly leaving the country last Monday afternoon, amidst massive public opposition he had to face. No one knew until that fateful Monday afternoon that he hAD left the country. Nobody even knew where the president was.
With the uprising on July 9th, by afternoon, protesters were successful in capturing the President’s official residence . However, the president was not seen inside the presidential mansion.
Saturday afternoon, social media promoted some vidio clips a motorcade driving through the airport highway and arriving at the airport. Another video broadcast showed security personnel hurriedly carrying suitcases and bordering a ship in the Colombo harbour.
By Saturday night, several stories about the President were circulating among the general public. According to one such story, President flew overseas from Katunayaka airport to Abu Dhabi. According to another story, he sailed to India in a naval vessel.
But none of these were the actual events. Today, for the first time, we are exposing the full story of how the president, who was struck inside his residence when protestors surrounded it, escaped and fled, and then how he left the country amid many difficulties, in our ‘Rajya Rahas’ column.
Plan for 9th July report indicted 10,000 crowd
How did the president prepare for the 9th of July, when protestors were expected in Colombo? What went wrong for him? How did he flee the president’s house ? Where did he go after escaping? How did he leave the country when Western countries refused to accept him? The facts depicted below were previously unknown to anyone.
Even the security forces, aside from the President, had no idea such a large crowd would descend on Colombo on July 9th. Because, by Friday, the President had requested a few reports about the ‘aragalaya,’ the first of which stated that 7,000 to 10,000 people were expected to attend the ‘aragalaya,’ as well as a few fictitious activities in which they would participate.
On Saturday, however, the President was dissatisfied with this and [asked for] for another report on Saturday’s protest. According to reliable information we gathered , this report too reported the same findings as the first report. As a result, Saturday’s security plan was tailored to the protestors, by increasing security and armed forces personnel presence in Colombo, beefing up city security, beefing up presidential house security, and deploying roadblocks. By Friday night (8), all of these were in place and ready to go.
However, no danger was reported to the president, which would necessitate his removal from his official residence, according to these reports. However, it was noted that if a security threat to the President arose, security personnel had a secret plan in place to evacuate the President.
Wrong security review
As a result, by Saturday morning, security forces had planned a review of the current situation. They gathered that between 8 a.m. and 8.45 a.m., a large throng of people from all four corners of the country would converge on Colombo.
What was expected by Friday was around 7,000-10,000 people , but by 9 a.m. on Saturday, this amount was reported to be over ten lacks. Presidential security team realised if the mob turn to the President’s house the deployed security is insufficient to protect the President. By 9 a.m., the presidential security team had taken steps to beef up the president’s security further.
Move to a safe hideout!
The security forces’ initial plan in the event of such an incident is to move the President to the Colombo harbour, which is on the right side of the presidential house, and vacate him. As part of this plan, security forces sealed all nine entry gates to the Colombo harbour by 9 a.m. on Saturday. The security plan was to evacuate President Gotabaya Rajapakse and his wife Ayoma Rajapakse via a secret tunnel only known to security forces.
This tunnel, which is about 75 to 100 meters long, is an ancient underground connection to the Colombo harbour. By 9.30 a.m., security forces had taken immediate action to use this tunnel and evacuate Mr. and Mrs. Rajapaksa to Colombo harbour, where they were placed in a Navy ship anchored in Colombo harbour.
Escape through the tunnel!
After a few hours of protest, security forces planned to bring the President and his wife back through this tunnel as they thought the protestors would dispers after few hours and peace would return and normalcy prevail . Due to this thought, they did not bring any extra change of clothes for the president and his wife.
However, by 10 a.m., they believed the presidential residence would be surrounded by protestors. as the Protesters were very successful in removing all of the roadblocks one by one.
Security forces reacted quickly, packing a few essential clothes and other items into a few suitcases and transporting them through the tunnel to the ship where the president and his wife were lodged. Two Navy vessels provided security for the President and his wife as they sailed to Negambo sea within Sri Lanka waters and took precautions to anchor the ship safely.
President house a battle ground!!
Meanwhile, by Saturday afternoon, the area around the presidential house had turned into a battleground. Protesters gathered and removed all barriers which were placed preventing the mob from entering the presidential mansion.
Protesters were targeted with tear gas by security forces and also were attacked with high-speed water cannons. The armed forces launched a severe resistance attack on protestors when they arrived at the last gate of the Presidential House.
Security forces fired into the air as a last resort to quell the protest. Protesters overcame all opposition and, by Saturday afternoon, had breached all security barriers and taken control of Sri Lanka’s historic presidential house for the first time. When protesters took over the presidential mansion, they realised the President had fled and had no idea where he was.
Deteriorating country situation!
However, by Saturday afternoon, the country’s situation appeared to be deteriorating. Protesters not only took over the presidential residence, but also the presidential secretariat. They emphasised that President should resign immediately. They promise not to hand over the presidential residence and secretariat until then.
Everyone was waiting to see how the president would react. However, no one knew where he was or what his next move would be. Even senior government ministers couldn’t get through to him. When asked about the president, some ministers were less helpful.
When a video clipping was circulated in the social media depicting a VVIP was seen arriving at the Katunayaka airport vis highway in a defender on Saturday afternoon, many assumed the president had left the country.
Similarly, another social media clip showed security forces loading a few large suitcases onto a hip, leading some to believe the President fled the country by sea. But what actually happened was quite different from these two ideas.
When the president went into exile, the political landscape shifted as well. The disappearance of the president prompted Minister Bandula, Dammika, Hareen and Manusha to resign from their respective ministerial positions. This indicated that the government is heading towards severe difficulties.
Boycott the illegal PM’s meeting!
Initially, the Prime Minister summoned a meeting of party leaders. Ranil did not mention the venue for security reasons. However, his party leaders meeting was a flop because the SJB and JVP refused to attend because Ranil’s appointment itself is illegal, so they chose to boycott his meetings and said only attend those called by the speaker.
Speaker called an emergency party leaders meeting at his residence after SJB and JVP informed so.
However, by this time, the international media was able to indicate the President’s whereabouts. For the first time, the Sri Lanka Navy stated to the international media that the President is safe on a special ship in Sri Lankan waters and that the location cannot be revealed due to security concerns.
Since the situation was getting worse, many felt and expressed that the president had to inform about his resignation. All the opposition parties were unanimous in this view. While this was taking place, Pohottuwa MP Dalas Alahaperuma and 16 others through a letter called for the president’s immediate resignation.
Rule while in hiding! Hide and seek!
As such, on Saturday evening itself, the president called the speaker and said he was safe and immediately to call an opposition party leader’s meeting and inform him of the decision arrived, and he was willing to take action based on that. This was reported immediately, and all became keen on the opposition party leaders’ meeting on Saturday.
The venue for this party leaders meeting was the speaker’s official residence, and due to security concerns, some party leaders participated via zoom. All party leaders have unanimously called for the President’s resignation, and the President has been informed accordingly.
Party leaders also stated that the entire nation wanted the Prime Minister to resign as well. During the meeting on a few occasions, Ranil opposed this view, but later stated that he, too, would resign as Prime Minister.
According to party leaders, once the President resigns, the speaker of the parliament should become acting President, summon the parliament immediately, elect a Prime Minister, and form a short-term all-party government. When this decision was reached, the speaker took steps to inform the President in writing.
The speaker mentioned the following key decisions in this letter:
- The President and Prime Minister should step down as soon as possible.
- According to parliamentay democratic norms and the constitution, the next step is to set a date for appointing a president and convene the parliament within seven days to obtain its consent.
- Form an all-party government under the newly elected President, and elect a prime minister and interim government with the agreement of the current parliamentary members.
- Call for general elections after a set period of time to allow people to vote for a new parliament.
Prime Minister’s dissent !
In addition to this prime minister proposed three alternative proposals.
- The president should resign immediately and the prime minister should be appointed as acting president.
- Appoint a Prime Minister and an interim government with the support of all parties.
- The President and Prime Minister immediately step down, and parliament members elect an acting president and a new prime minister with unanimous consent, and form an interim government within a specified time frame
However, matters got heated up despite Ranil agreeing to resign in the party leaders meeting. Subsequently, through his media division, he issued a somewhat different media statement. In that statement, he mentioned that after an all-party government is formed and a Prime Minister is named, he would resign from his current position.
Immediately after the release of this statement, the President’s reaction was released, and it mentioned that, as per the party leaders’ decision, the President would resign on July 13th. The President’s this decision calmed the entire country somewhat. However, the security forces were in a dilemma mainly about how they could provide the President with security and where they were to keep the president and his future plans.
Amidst all this, after spending a full day in and around Negombo sea coast on Sunday morning, the president was brought to a secure place in the Colombo harbour. (For security reasons, we would not divulge the name of this place). Subsequently, the presidency, through a third party, sent some messages to the opposition leader, the speaker, and a few of his loyal ministers
President’s plea to Sajith! Sajith as steady as ever!
The most important message was received by the Opposition leader. The first message he received said he was willing to continue as the predident. He is in agreement to once again activate the 19th amendment, allowing the executive powers of the president to be vested in the parliament, and to accept the prime minister’s position and allow him to function as the figurehead President.
But Sajith immediately rejected this proposal. In his reply message to the president, Sajith stated that he is unwilling to serve as Prime Minister under a rejected president.
However, through another fraction, the President sent Sajith another message. In that message, the President stated he would appoint Sajith as the Prime Minister and resign as the President and to provide a security promise for him and his family to live in the country safely.
Sajith sent a reply through the messenger who brought the message and communicated that he has no issues with providing security to a former president, which is laid down in the constitution, but he would not be involved in the legal matters to protect the president.
With Sajith’s second reply, the president decided to leave the country for his own life security as he feared he would be in a dilemma if he stayed here. His immediate option was the place where he was a dual citizen once, and his one and only child’s residency was in the United States. On the other hand, Mrs. Ayoma Rajapakse is also an American citizen with dual citizenship.
Accordingly, he immediately contacted the American embassy in Colombo. However, the embassy responded immediately, stating that the president once denounced his US citizenship, which is considered a disgrace to the US, and thus he is on the blacklist and cannot enter the US. If he is to obtain a visa to the USA once again, he has to follow a long process with the embassy.
In addition, the USA issued another serious message to the President. That his conduct and use of power during his tenner of office have raised serious concerns in the American government. Under these circumstances, an entry visa to the USA cannot be issued.
President faced a serious problem [upon] receiving this message from the USA. However without giving up he contacted the Los Angeles based consul general Dr. Lalith Chandradasa and explore the ways how to enter United States of America. Lalith Chandradas is his younger sisters husband. His brother in law. When Lalith consulted some lawyers, they informed him that since the president’s wife is a USA citizen, they could make use of this and the president could apply for a green card visa.
As Lawyers mentioned, the only available option at the moment is this. But this would take a long time to process. The President, with this intimation from Lalith, informed him to proceed with that matter and sheared his American trip and began to decide on another venue to depart from.
European countries reject turning to the Middle East!
The information we got says his next choice was Ireland. His visa application was sent immediately to the Ireland embassy and they refused it without citing any reasons. He was alarmed by this. His third choice was Bulgaria, but that too was rejected, and he got panicked and rattled. He couldn’t decide whether he had fallen mentally or physically. He decided to flee to some other country since he was unable to reach a Western country or a European country. His next choice was Abu Dabhi in the Middle East.
He called two of his supporters and told them he needed to get to Abu Dhabi right away. One was arranging the tickets and the other was looking for a secure location for him to stay safe. The President planned to stay about one month in Abu Dhabi safely and under the green card visa facility to enter the USA with his wife. A flight on Etihad Airways with flight number EY 265 from Katunayaka to Abu Dhabi on Monday, at 5:25 a.m. was set up.
Basil’s nightmare at the airport!
While the president was getting ready to leave the country, another individual was also seen secretly trying to leave the shores of Sri Lanka. That was none other than the president’s younger brother, former finance minister, Basil Rajapakse.
Basil’s intention was to leave Sri Lanka suddenly. He planned to leave before the president reserved the ticket. His flight time was Monday morning at 3,15. A ticket booked on Flight No. EK 649, which is to fly from Dubai to the USA, was reserved for him to fly.
The President’s departure was scheduled for after Basil’s departure. The plan was to transport the President to Ratmalana airport through land and to fly to an air force camp located near Katunayake airport.
This was because a few minutes before the departure of the flight, he could be driven closer to the flight and boarder him and the security personnel to finalise the emigration documents in the meantime.
In this manner, the president’s secret departure was planned. All was turned upside down when Basil Rajapakse reached the airport at about 2.45 am. By that time, a picture of his arrival at the airport began circulating in the social media, which created a severe uproar, especially at the airport, which turned upside down.
Passengers in the airport at that time shouted at Basil, and the situation was difficult to control by the emigration officials. The oppressors’ could not be controlled by the airport officials. Oppressors threatened that even if Basil boarded the flight, he would be captured. A severe security problem arose for Basil. He too felt this. For a few minutes, he stayed in a small room located in the “silk root” area, cancelled his American trip and left the airport.
Silk road work stoppage!
Some special incidents took place after this incident. Accusing Rajapakses of trying to leave the country secretly, ‘silk root’ immigration officers withdrew from their services. This resulted in no vip being able to obtain the services of’ silk root’ [sic silk route] and all leaving the country having to use the normal terminal.
Basil’s ordeal by this time reached the president’s ears as well. Hearing this news, not only the president but even his security contingent was shaken. While all this was taking place, the President received another shocking message which stated the airport officials had opposed the passport and other documents of the President.
The initial plan was for security officials to present the documents to immigration authorities on board the flight and have them sanctioned. but the refusal to accept the President’s passport of the President. Their retort was that to sanction the passport legally, the holder of the passport should be present. If not, they refuse to sanction the passport.
As a result, the President’s scheduled trip to Abu Dhabi on Monday morning, 5.25, got cancelled. The irony of this is that due to the people’s protest, the president could not stay in the country and, officially, could not board a flight and leave the country. He faced a situation where the famous adage says “if you stay on the way you die, if you go home your wife dies”. Due to this, both Mr. and Mrs. Rajapakse were in a helpless situation.
Use of presidential privileges!
A top-level meeting was convened to address this situation. There were many suggestions put forward by the authorities. One was that, as the incumbant president, he could still continue to hold office and use the prescribed facilities to leave the country.
For that, an air force flight could be used, and in such situations it is not necessary to be present in front of the immigration officials in person, and relevant documents would be presented by the security officer. All present at the meeting noted the President was attracted to this proposal.
One logistic issue raised here is that the present flights the air force possesses have only a limited capacity to fly when it comes to the distance. This bars flying to Abu Dhabi. The maximum distance that could be flown was up to Kochin in India. From there, you can board a flight to Abu Dhabi.
In addition, some alternate proposals were made, such as using a private jet. The issue here was that private jets could only land at Katunayaka airport and Ratmalana airport. However, if leaving Katunayaka, immigration services are required. With these reservations, the private jet proposal was discarded. Previously, private jets could land at Ratmalan airport, but when the current president took office, that facility was removed.
This prevented them from using Ratmalana to flee the country. Finally, it was decided to fly to Cochin with a security helicopter and leave for Dubai from there. Immediate talks commenced with India to execute this plan.
Indian cold shoulder!
Many were under the impression that since Gotabaya Rajapakse’s government had very close ties with India, they would willigly help the President. Right away, Gotabaya Rajapakse, immediately after resuming office, handed over the East terminal of Colombo port to India.
Similarly, violating all tender procedures, he handed over the renewable energy project to Adani Company of India. To facilitate the economic turbulans faced by Sri Lanka due to this, the Indian government offered a three-month fuel loan facility.
But India acted very negatively towards Rajapakse. India was monitoring the situation and the latest developments in the country very closely. There was an assessment of the growing unpopularity of the Rajapakses and the hatred people have towards the family.
India’s concern was that if they helped the President to escape and flee the country, the hatred of Sri Lankans could be directed towards India and growing Indian hatred could emerge. Therefore, Sri Lanka’s request was rejected by Indian authorities and [they] informed t[the Rajapaksas] hat, according to Indian law, no flight belonging to the military of another nation could be allowed to land in Indian airports. The last minute shock put the president in a weakened situation.
Maldives to the rescue!
This left the President with only one option in order to leave the country. On an air force flight to flee to the Maldives, and from there leave for Singapore and reach the final destination of Abu Dhabi from there. The President agreed to this and executed this plan. He was to stay for about a month in Singapore and leave for Abu Dhabi from there.
While staying in Abu Dhabi, his plan is to work towards leaving for the USA. To avoid possible resistance if he boarded a normal passenger flight, he made plans to chart a special flight, paying more for it from the Maldives.
The Maldivian plan was entrusted to the Maldives’ incumbant speaker and former President Mohamed Nasheed. Mahinda and Namal, who have very close ties with Nasheed, explained the situation in the country and facilitated the President’s arrival in Maldives and departure for Singapore. India had rejected the President’s request, getting Maldivian green light was going to be difficult, Nasheed felt.
However, due to the past relationship Nasheed had with the Rajapakses, he could not ignore this request. In a few hours, Naseed was able to convince the Maldivian president and arrange for the Sri Lankan president to fly to Maldives on an air force flight. On receipt of this news, necessary arrangements were made by the forces for the president and his wife, Ayoma, to leave for Maldives by Wednesday morning . For this, they used the VVIP transport flight Antanov 32. In addition to the President and his wife, one security officer was allowed to fly. The flight left Sri Lanka at 1.30 a.m. and arrived in Male, the capital of the Maldives, at 3 a.m. This is how a four-day ordeal that began on Saturday ended.
Sri Lankan angered in Maldives!
Many thought the President’s arrival in the Maldives would settle all issues, but it did not happen in this manner. When the international media reported the President’s flight to the Maldives, both Sri Lankan and Maldivian citizens took to the streets in protest. opposed to the authorities there and to President Gotabaya Rajapakse. Male authorities had to use police force to disperse the mob.
Due to this unexpected event, the president’s plan to leave for Singapore on the next flight was changed immediately. If any resistance occurs inflight, he could face a dangerous situation. Security personnel delayed his Singapore departure and drove him to a luxury hotel located in the southern part of the archipelago. Indian media reported this luxurious hotel’s one-night charge for one person in Sri Lankan rupees, about 18 lacks rupees.
Charter flight rejection!
During his stay there, the president planned his Singapore flight. It was decided he could not travel on a normal flight under the prevailing situation. It was decided to charter a flight for this purpose.
However, normal airflight operators demand 4 times the normal fare for this, mainly due to the high risk involved in transporting the president at this juncture. Finally, the president’s team agreed to this.
But due to the growing opposition internationally, the final outcome was the airline’s refusal to take the president to Singapore. But some how, he needed to reach Singapore, so the president decided to travel with his wife on a normal Saudi air passenger flight bearing no SV 788 to Singapore.
Who is this Singapore confidant!
The President is, at the moment, staying with one of his very close and confident businessmen’s security. He has been a frequent visitor to Sri Lanka and has close ties with the Singapore government, ‘Rajya rahas’ learned. Finally, Gotabaya Rajapakse penned his resignation letter after 969 days of reign as president, addressed to the Sri Lankan speaker after his safe landing in Singapore.
There is a secret story behind sending the resignation letter to the speaker. Before he fled Sri Lanka, he informed the Speaker that on July 13th he would send his resignation letter to the Speaker. Accordingly, under pressure from the protestors’ president’s intent.
Speaker disturbed !
But when the letter was not received on the date it was promised, a host of issues began to surface. Many spoke to the speaker about the non-reception of the letter, but the speaker had to reply in the negative. However, due to his being struck in the Maldives, he was unable to leave for Singapore, and this delay was caused by his being struck in the Maldives.
The Speaker repeatedly called to find out about the resignation letter, but he was not contactable. He had to think that the President was avoiding sending the letter. The Speaker had mentioned this thought to a few of his close party leaders, “Rajya Rahas” learned. It was indicated that the speaker had expressed that he would resign if this letter was not received.
‘Bellow’ at the speaker!
Finally, the speaker was able to reach the president, but he was under severe stress not being able to leave for Singapore. Therefore, he was very angry. He vented his rage on the speaker. He had said, “Allow me to be in myself. I am in severe distress. I will send the letter of resignation when I can mind your own business.” and disconnected the phone.
The speaker was in a severely depressed state after the president’s retort. He was seeking legal advice on what to do next. One opinion expressed therein was that if he was not forwarding the resignation letter, he could proceed with future activities considering he had vacated his position. Accordingly, Speaker made this announcement and said he would do the needful accordingly.
Assurance to dispatch the resignation letter!
However, the president, who was in the Maldives at the time, heard this and a few minutes after the speaker’s announcement. He called the speaker, while apologizing for his harsh remarks, and said he was disturbed at that moment. He promised he would send the letter once he reached Singapore.
The speaker was not ready to accept what the president said. He said once he received the confirmation letter in his hands, he would publish it. Due to this, he too is faced with severe stress, the speaker informed the president.
Whats app saga and resignation!
As promised, on landing in Singapore, the president sent his letter of resignation to the speaker through whatsap message. He called the speaker and informed him of this and requested him to publish it. The Speaker refused this. The reason the speaker cited was that he needs to study the legal aspects of this completely. Not by whatsap. Until he gets the letter in his hand, he cannot publish it.
The President stressed that he would somehow make sure the speaker received the letter in his hands and wanted to announce the receipt of the letter. But the speaker rejected to pay attention to this as well and said that until he received the letter, he would not announce it. The President was angered here and said that through the flight that leaves Singapore at midnight, the letter would be dispatched.
In the meantime, the Speaker acted and forwarded the WhatsApp resignation letter to legal experts for verification. Legal experts informed the speaker that this letter could not be authenticated as a true copy. The reasons they cited were that the president’s resignation letter should have been addressed to the speaker, and since this letter does not have that address, it cannot be considered a legally acceptable one.
On hearing the legal expert’s remarks, the speaker immediately informed the presidential secretary, Mr. Gamini Senerath, that the president’s resignation could not be accepted and indicated the flaws in the letter and asked him to make the necessary corrections and return the same to him.
The visit of two stalwarts
However, immediately after this, two of the president’s stalwarts visited the Speaker. That is presidential counsel attorney at law Ali Sabri and professor G.L. Pieris.
They informed the speaker that the resignation letter of the president is legal and that the address to the speaker is not necessary. But by this time, the speaker was very familiar with the constitutional provisions of the president’s resignation and informed the two parliamentarians that he could not and would not accept the letter. The Speaker once again called Mr. Gamini Senerath and informed him about this. Mr. Senerat informed the Speaker some time before Thursday night that he would get the letter.
The End of the Rajapakse Saga!
President has taken measures to get the official letter delivered to the Speaker by Thursday afternoon, and that was known to us before any other media in Sri Lanka. Consequently, by Thursday at 7 PM, we released this as a special news on our website. All other media published this more than half an hour after our publication.
A president came to power, polling 69 million votes, extending his powers further by enacting the 20th amendment to the constitution, and bidding good bye. This is an indication of the end of a historical event in the country.