Sri Lanka’s former president tipped to return to crisis-hit nation next week

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Foreign Minister Ali Sabry told CNN late Wednesday the Sri Lankan government had been told of Rajapaksa’s return “through diplomatic channels.”

“Officially we have no role in the return. He is a citizen of Sri Lanka and can travel as he wishes,” Sabry said.

Rajapaksa’s estranged cousin Udayanga Weeratunga, a former Sri Lankan Ambassador to Russia, told reporters Wednesday the former leader would return on August 24.

Rajapaksa is in Thailand after fleeing Sri Lanka in July on a military plane for Maldives, and then traveling to Singapore, days after angry protesters stormed his official residence and office.

He tendered his resignation from Singapore, while public anger grewover his alleged mismanagement of the economy.

The former leader’s hurried exit was a historic moment for the nation of 22 million, which members of the Rajapaksa family ruled with an iron fist for much of the past two decades.

Anger has been growing in Sri Lanka for months after the country’s foreign exchange reserves plummeted to record lows, with dollars running out to pay for essential imports including food, medicine and fuel.

Rajapaksa’s brother Mahinda Rajapaksa was forced to resign as prime minister in May as public fury grew over the crisis.

His departure came during a day of chaos and violence that culminated in police imposing a curfew across the country.

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe reportedly said in late July it was “not the right time” for Gotabaya Rajapaksa to return to the country as it could inflame political tensions.

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