India denies reports of helping Sri Lanka President flee to Maldivestext_fields
Colombo: India on Wednesday denied "baseless and speculative" media reports that it helped Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa move to the Maldives. This comes just hours after the unpopular leader fled the country with his wife amid widespread protests over a crippling financial crisis.
On Wednesday morning, the 73-year-old president, who has promised to resign from his post, left the country in a military jet with his wife and two security personnel, news agency PTI reported.
"The High Commission categorically denies baseless and speculative media reports that India facilitated the recent reported travel of (President Gotabaya Rajapaksa) out of Sri Lanka," the High Commission of India in Sri Lanka tweeted. "It is reiterated that India will continue to support the people of Sri Lanka as they seek to realise their aspirations for prosperity and progress through democratic means and values, established democratic institutions and constitutional framework."
The island nation has witnessed widespread protests over the past few months as an economic crisis that has been fueled by a severe shortage of foreign exchange, which has left the country in dire need of essential imports including food, fuel and medicine.
The Sri Lankan Air Force on Wednesday said it provided the aircraft to fly the president, his wife and two security personnel to the Maldives as per the provisions of the constitution and at the request of the government.
"On government request and in terms of powers available to a President under the Constitution, with complete approval from the Ministry of Defence, the President, his wife and two security officials were provided a Sri Lanka Air Force plane to depart from the Katunayake international airport for the Maldives in the early hours of July 13," an official announced.
Rajapaksa had announced on Saturday that he would step down as the President after thousands of protestors barged into his official residence.
With PTI inputs