Apparently even close regional allies like the Maldives see embattled Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa as too much of a liability to have around for more than a day or two.
While he had initially fled his country on a military aircraft Wednesday just as protesters overran his presidential residence in Colombo and were even enjoying his swimming pool, and with his motorcade later being briefly spotted speeding through the streets of Maldive capital of Malé, he's now reported to have arrived in nearby Singapore on Thursday. But it seems protests are following him wherever he goes.
CNN reports that Rajapaksa "has fled Maldives on board a flight for Singapore, a high-ranking security source in Colombo told CNN, as anger grows in his home country over his refusal to formally resign."
Family members were also being ferried out of the capital as it descended into chaos. To leave the Maldives, he may have had some help from the Saudis, the report continues:
Rajapaksa left the capital of the Maldives, Malé, on board a "Saudi flight," the source said. Rajapaksa had been waiting to secure a "private jet" from a close family member in Colombo, but that had "not materialized," the source added.
CNN believes the source was referring to Saudia flight 788, which left Malé at 11:30 a.m. according to the source. The flight landed in Singapore at 7:17 p.m. local time Thursday, according to the Changi Airport website. Saudia is the flag carrier of Saudi Arabia.
Former prime minister and Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office was also stormed just as Gotabaya was safely in the Maldives.
Wickremesinghe has authorized the army to "exercise force" if need be as government buildings continue to come under threat after a state of national emergency has been declared.
"In view of the escalation of violent acts, protesters intent on harming the armed forces or public property are earnestly urged to desist from all forms of violence immediately or be prepared to face consequences as members of the armed forces are legitimately empowered to exercise force," Premaratne announced. However, this is likely to only further enrage demonstrators in the streets.
President Rajapaksa had reportedly been staying at the Waldorf Astoria when he was briefly in the Maldives. But his presence had immediately sparked protests on the islands.
Former Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa landed in the Maldives expecting peace. Instead, he was met with the wrath & fury of locals. For Rajapaksa, there’s no peace, even in exile. Take a look at the scene.pic.twitter.com/I4EmKRuFlz— Steve Hanke (@steve_hanke) July 13, 2022
The protests took place across the nation’s islands—including in front of the Maldivian president’s house—and reportedly grew violent as local police attempted to disperse the crowds, which included demonstrators who carried banners that read, "Dear Maldivian friends, please urge your government not to safeguard criminals."
Even some Maldivian lawmakers had choice words about the decision to give the ex-president refuge, with a member of the Progressive Party of Maldives calling it a "betrayal" to their closely allied country, according to The Deccan Herald.
Bloomberg has meanwhile noted in an update that the embattled Sri Lankan president's precise whereabouts in Singapore are as yet unknown. Likely he'll attempt to keep an extremely low profile for fear of protests breaking out there, which would pressure and encourage authorities to continue sending him on to another country.
As his status as a 'pariah' grows, fueled by the anti-government and anti-corruption protests at home and abroad, it becomes less likely that sympathetic allies will host him in their countries.