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Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa tried to escape his country during an economic collapse, but airport personnel would not let him.
Gotobaya and his wife tried to catch a flight on Tuesday after protesters stormed his home over the weekend, but he would not go through customs with the general public and immigration officers refused to go to a VIP suite to stamp his passport, Agence France-Presse reported.
Rajapaksa has been blamed by many for the country’s economic decline, which has led to food, fuel and medicine shortages and a default on the country’s international debt. The country’s inflation hit 54.6% in June.
Protests have taken place since March in which demonstrators have demanded the president’s resignation due to the failing economy. That led to Rajapaksa announcing that he will step down from office on Wednesday, but according to AFP the belief is that he wanted to leave the country first so that he could not be arrested once he loses his official immunity.
The soon-to-be ex-president and his wife ended up staying at a nearby military base after missing four flights to the United Arab Emirates. His younger brother Basil also missed a flight after facing opposition.
“There were some other passengers who protested against Basil boarding their flight,” an airport official told the outlet. “It was a tense situation, so he hurriedly left the airport.”
Over the weekend, unrest reached a point of no return in the Asian island nation, as protesters overran his presidential palace. Demonstrators could be seen partying in the house and swimming in the pool. They also set the prime minister’s home on fire.
Upon his resignation, Gotobaya would be replaced by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, but he too said he will resign once the country’s lawmakers form a new government. Officials said a new president will be elected next week.
Nominations for president are expected to be submitted on July 19, with a secret vote in by the country’s parliament the following day. Whoever is chosen will serve until the end of the current presidential term in 2024.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.