As animosity grows, the president’s brother is unable to depart Sri Lanka

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Colombo: On Tuesday, Sri Lankan immigration officials asserted that they had prevented the president’s brother and former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa from departing the country by plane, as anger toward the affluent family for the terrible economic crisis in the country grew. Rajapaksa, who is also a citizen of the US, did not immediately specify his intended destination.

He resigned as finance minister in the early days of April as protests concerning the scarcity of food, petrol, and other essentials erupted on the streets. Later, in June, he resigned from his post in the parliament.

His older brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa will step down as president on Wednesday to create place for a unity administration after tens of thousands of protestors stormed the president and prime minister’s official residences on Saturday, demanding their dismissal.

The president hasn’t been seen in public since Friday, and it’s unclear where he is. The Sri Lanka Immigration and Emigration Officers Association claims that its members declined the chance to assist Basil Rajapaksa at the VIP departure lounge at the airport.

“Given the disturbance in Sri Lanka, immigration officers are under immense pressure to not let top-level people to leave the country,” claims K.A.S. Kanugala, the association’s head. “We are worried about our safety. Therefore, until this issue is remedied, the immigration officials employed by the VIP lounge will no longer be available.” Photos of Basil Rajapaksa at the lounge were widely circulated on social media and featured in local media. His attempts to leave the nation outraged some users. Basil Rajapaksa could not immediately be reached for comment, and a close aide declined to give further details.

The Rajapaksa family, which includes former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, has long dominated politics in the 22 million-person country, and the majority of Sri Lankans consider them accountable for their current predicament. The country’s tourism-based economy was negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, a reduction in remittances from Sri Lankans living abroad, and a restriction on chemical fertilisers. The embargo was later lifted.

The severe gasoline rationing has caused long lineups to form in front of retailers selling cooking gas. The central bank has issued a warning that following months’ headline inflation, which was 54.6 percent last month, could increase to 70 percent. Sri Lanka’s sovereign dollar bonds hit new record lows on Tuesday as previous falls persisted.

The 2025 bond suffered the worst losses, falling as much as 1.125 cents, per Tradeweb data, with the bonds trading between 25 and 27 cents on the dollar. The president’s and prime minister’s official residences will be occupied by protesters until they vacate, they have threatened. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe didn’t move into his official mansion, Temple Trees, after taking office in May, and he wasn’t there when protesters set fire to his home on Saturday in Colombo.

Seven persons were transported to the hospital on Tuesday as a result of a fight between two protester groups near Temple Trees, according to police spokesman Nalin Thalduwa. It wasn’t immediately clear what started the fight. The selection of a new head of state by the Sri Lankan parliament on July 20 will pave the way for a multiparty system of government.