All-powerful former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa was in for a nasty shock when he entered Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in the wee hours of Tuesday (12), to leave the country, as officials and passengers blocked him from boarding the flight in a dramatic turn of events.
He was to leave the country to the USA via Dubai early last morning through the Silk Route VIP lounge and was refused check in by the airport emigration staff, forcing Rajapaksa to return.
Meanwhile, senior officials at the BIA have received death threats and warnings through social media, short message service (SMS), emails, and phone calls warning them against letting any ruling party politician, VIP and their associates from leaving the country, Ceylon Today reliably learns.
According to reports, the Air Traffic Control room was warned not to let the flight carrying Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa from taking off in the early hours of yesterday (12).
Sri Lanka Immigration and Emigration Officers’ Association said that at around 1 a.m. yesterday (12), Basil Rajapaksa arrived at the BIA and there was a commotion regarding his departure. Rajapaksa was to board the flight in the early hours of 3:25 a.m. for the US through Dubai, but finally did not leave due to a protest from passengers inside the BIA. Passengers at the BIA,waiting to board the Emirates Airlines and Sri Lankan Airlines flights, saw the Minister shouting and said he should leave.
“We learned through a complaint that Rajapaksa used the Silk Route, which is reserved for Commercially Important Persons and that he paid for his stay prior to his departure. We had no choice but to take steps to prevent him from using that passage. Many passengers advised him to use the ordinary citizen departure lounge. We immediately stepped up on our decision to shut down the silk route service yesterday (12) until further notice, K.A.A.S. Kanugala, President of the Sri Lanka Immigration and Emigration Officer’s Association said.
Kanugala further stated that they took that step considering the current unstable and crisis situation in Sri Lanka and because there is a possibility of using this Silk Road clearing terminal to leave the country in large numbers.
Also, Sri Lanka Nidahas Sevaka Sangamaya (SLNSS), or the Independent Workers Union, which has supported the people’s struggle, stated that despite the severity of the crisis situation, some of those responsible are attempting to flee the country. There is a protest against those attempting to flee and those assisting them in leaving the country. As a result, the Sri Lanka Immigration and Emigration Officers’ Association has informed the SLNSS that the service at the Silk Route will be discontinued temporarily. The Immigration and Emigration Officers’ Association has thus suspended service at the Silk Route as of yesterday midnight until further notice, as acknowledged by the SLNSS.
By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan