Former Sri Lankan president Rajapaksa will return home next week: Local media

Former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa is temporarily sheltering in Thailand, after fleeing Sri Lanka on a military plane. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (REUTERS) - Sri Lanka's former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa will return to the island nation next week after fleeing in July amid mass protests, local broadcaster Newsfirst reported on Wednesday (Aug 17), citing a former ambassador.

Mr Udayanga Weeratunga, a former Sri Lankan envoy to Russia who is related to Mr Rajapaksa, said he will arrive in Sri Lanka on Aug 24, Newsfirst reported.

Mr Rajapaksa, the first Sri Lankan president to quit mid-term, is temporarily sheltering in Thailand, after fleeing Sri Lanka on a military plane to the Maldives and then spending weeks in Singapore.

He resigned from office soon after arriving in Singapore, facing public anger over his government's handling of Sri Lanka's worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948.

Mr Rajapaksa has made no public appearances or comment since leaving Sri Lanka. Reuters was not able to immediately contact him or Mr Weeratunga.

The office of Mr Rajapaksa's successor, Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe, who suggested last month that the former president refrain from returning to Sri Lanka in the near future, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"I don't believe it's the time for him to return," Mr Wickremesinghe told the Wall Street Journal in an interview on July 31. "I have no indication of him returning soon."

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