No show at Changi Airport by beleaguered Sri Lanka president, despite reports of plans to fly to Singapore
- Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa did not turn up at Changi Airport on July 14 morning
- He was expected to arrive here via a Singapore Airlines commercial flight
- TODAY met a few Sri Lankans based in Singapore who were disappointed they could not show their anger in person to the president
- Mr Rajapaksa fled their homeland following protests over economic collapse
- Singapore has on previous occasions taken a clear stance on not receiving anyone seeking refuge or asylum
SINGAPORE — Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was a no-show at Changi Airport on Thursday morning (July 14), despite initially being expected to arrive here via a Singapore Airlines commercial flight from the Maldives, where he had fled to a day earlier as protests gripped his home country.
Reports indicated that due to security concerns, Mr Rajapaksa did not board the SQ437 flight, which arrived in Singapore at 7.50am.
The president, his wife and their two security officers were reportedly waiting to secure a private aircraft to head to Singapore at a later time, Sri Lanka media Daily Mirror reported based on sources from the Maldives.
News agency AFP later reported that the entourage left the Maldives aboard a Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) plane bound for Singapore, quoting an airport official. They were escorted to the aircraft minutes before it took off from Velana International airport in Male, the official said.
At Changi Airport on Thursday morning, some Sri Lankans told TODAY that they were disappointed because they were hoping to express their frustration in person to the beleaguered president who had left Sri Lanka in economic collapse.
A Sri Lankan software consulting manager for a big technology firm here, who declined to be named, said that he had arrived at Changi Airport around 6.30am.
“There were more people, about 10 to 20, but they left already after Sri Lanka media reported he did not board the plane,” he said.
The 35-year-old said that he last visited Sri Lanka in May, when he helped uproot his parents from the city to a rural area and helped them start a small farm.
“In the city, not only are there higher prices, but there is also a black market. Fuel costs about 450 rupees (S$1.45) a litre, (but) people with influence will buy and sell it for 4,500 rupees,” he added.
Another Sri Lankan based in Singapore, an engineer who has been here for about 11 years and also did not want to be named, said that he wanted to see Mr Rajapaksa to show his dissatisfaction in person.
The 32-year old whose parents still live in Sri Lanka said: “I wanted to at least shout at him.”
He added that he might keep a lookout for when the Sri Lankan president will arrive in Singapore later and may consider another stakeout.
News agency Reuters last reported that Mr Rajapaksa was headed to Singapore to seek asylum.
Singapore has on previous occasions taken a clear stance on not receiving anyone seeking refuge or asylum.
Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said in a written parliamentary reply in September last year: “As a small, densely populated country with limited land, Singapore is not in a position to accept any persons seeking political asylum or refugee status”.
This was in response to a question on whether his ministry would provide options for Myanmar nationals with expiring passes to extend their stay here on compassionate grounds given the political turmoil back home.
Mr Rajapaksa had fled Colombo to the Maldives in the early hours of Wednesday aboard a Sri Lankan Air Force plane, for Male, Reuters reported based on an air force statement. This was hours before he was due to resign following protests over the economic crisis that had afflicted the South Asian island state.
Quoting a government source who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the subject, Reuters reported that Mr Rajapaksa could send his resignation to the speaker of the Sri Lankan parliament after landing in Singapore.