Sri Lanka's ruling party asks new president to help with ex-leader Rajapaksa's return

Sri Lanka's then president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, presenting his national statement during the World Leaders' Summit at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain November 1, 2021. Andy Buchanan/Pool via REUTERS

COLOMBO, Aug 18 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's ruling party has asked the country's new president to provide security and other assistance for his predecessor who fled to Southeast Asia last month after protests flared amid a crippling economic crisis, an official said on Thursday.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa flew to Singapore last month and quit as Sri Lanka's president, making way for veteran politician Ranil Wickremesinghe to win a vote in parliament and take the top job. read more

Rajapaksa, who has been accused of mishandling the island nation's economy leading to its worst financial crisis in seven decades, is currently in Thailand for a temporary stay. read more

Sagara Kariyawasam, general secretary of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, said his party had approached Wickremesinghe for help to enable Rajapaksa's return.

"We requested the president to facilitate and provide the necessary security and facilities for former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to return to the country," Kariyawasam told Reuters.

"The date of his return is not finalised."

Local broadcaster Newsfirst, citing a former ambassador, said on Wednesday that Rajapaksa would return home next week. read more

In an interview with Reuters earlier on Thursday, Wickremesinghe said he was "not aware" of any such plans for the former president's return. read more

A former military officer who took office after winning an election in 2019 by a landslide majority, Rajapaksa is the first Sri Lankan president to quit mid-term. read more

His resignation followed widespread protests in the island nation of 22 million people, and came after thousands of people stormed the presidential residence and office in the commercial capital Colombo in early July. read more

Reporting by Waruna Cudah Nimal Karunatilake in Colombo Writing by Devjyot Ghoshal Editing by Matthew Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.