PPM: Asylum for Gotabaya subjected Maldivians in Sri Lanka to harm’s way

PPM's Leader, former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom shakes hands with supporters during an 'India Out' event. (Photo/PPM)

Opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has stated that the Maldivian Government’s alleged asylum for embattled Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has subjected Maldivians residing at Sri Lanka to harm’s way.

Following foiled attempts to depart to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates - President Rajapaksa fled Sri Lanka in the early hours of Wednesday, arriving in the neighboring Maldives, mere hours before he was due to step down from his post over the civilian uprising prompted by the island nation’s devastating economic crisis.

President Rajapaksa, along with his wife and two security personnel arrived in the Maldives on an AN32 troop transport plane from the Sri Lanka Air Force.

No Maldivian authorities have issued official statements regarding President Rajapaksa’s arrival in the country.

In a statement released on Wednesday condemning the possible grant of asylum to President Rajapaksa by the Maldivian Government – PPM described it as an act unacceptable to the people of Maldives.

Underscoring that a military aircraft belonging to a foreign nation would only be permitted inside Maldivian airspace with approval from Maldives National Defense Force – the opposition party had called on Defense Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi and Chief of Defense Force Major General Abdulla Shamal to be answerable to Maldivian citizens.

The party also alleged the involvement of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and Parliament Speaker Mohamed Nasheed in the matter.

Therewith, PPM had urged to disclose the truth – also demanding President Solih and Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid to be made answerable.

“Calling on President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Speaker Mohamed Nasheed, Mariya Ahmed Didi, Abdulla Shamaal and Abdulla Shahid to take responsibility for subjecting Maldivians residing at Sri Lanka to harm’s way by granting asylum for the country’s president against the wishes of Sri Lankan citizens. Also calling to expedite efforts to ensure the safety and security of Maldivians residing at Sri Lanka,” the statement read.

Sri Lankan presidents are protected from arrest while in power, and it is likely Rajapaksa planned his escape while he still had constitutional immunity. He was scheduled to announce his official resignation on Wednesday evening.

Reports state that President Rajapaksa had arrived in the Maldives at a time Sri Lanka’s Attorney General had requested its Supreme Court to issue a travel ban against him.

The president’s departure followed months of demonstrations that culminated Saturday in protesters storming his home and office and the official residence of his prime minister. The protests have all but dismantled his family’s political dynasty, which ruled Sri Lanka for most of the past two decades.

Civilian protestors accuse the president and his relatives of siphoning money from government coffers for years and Rajapaksa’s administration of hastening the country’s collapse by mismanaging the economy. Although the family denies the corruption allegations, President Rajapaksa acknowledged some of his policies contributed to the turmoil.

Sri Lankan Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said that Rajapaksa appointed the current prime minister to serve as acting president in the interim — an arrangement that further enraged protesters who want Wickremesinghe out immediately.

However, he stressed that President Rajapaksa assured he would render his resignation later today.