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Former Sri Lankan prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa's whereabouts are still unknown even as protesters demand his arrest

Not sending troops to Sri Lanka: India refutes media reports

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The Indian High Commission in Colombo categorically denied on Wednesday speculative media reports about New Delhi sending its troops to Colombo, saying India is fully supportive of Sri Lanka’s democracy, stability and economic recovery.

Also read: Events in Sri Lanka should be wake up call for India: Mehbooba Mufti

“The High Commission would like to categorically deny speculative reports in sections of media and social media about #India sending her troops to Sri Lanka. These reports and such views are also not in keeping with the position of the Government of #India,” the Indian mission said on Twitter.

“The Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs of India clearly stated yesterday (Tuesday) that India is fully supportive of Sri Lanka’s democracy, stability and economic recovery,” it said in another tweet, which was its first reaction to the situation in Sri Lanka.

The High Commission had on Tuesday refuted as “fake and blatantly false” local social media speculation that former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family members have fled to India, a day after the patriarch of the powerful Rajapaksa family quit as premier.

“The High Commission has recently noticed rumours circulating in sections of media and social media that certain political persons and their families have fled to India. These are fake and blatantly false reports, devoid of any truth or substance. The High Commission strongly denies them,” a statement said.

The whereabouts of Mahinda Rajapaksa is being speculated since his resignation on Monday. It was reported that Mahinda left his office-cum-official residence, Temple Trees, early Tuesday morning.

“India will always be guided by the best interests of the people of Sri Lanka expressed through democratic processes,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Gotabaya to hold talks with SJB, dissidents

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will on Wednesday hold talks with his party dissidents and the main opposition party Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) in a bid to end the political impasse after Mahinda Rajapaksa’s resignation.

The SJB, the ruling party dissidents and Gotabaya Rajapaksa have been holding talks for the past two days without much success, The Times of India quoted sources.

“We will have more talks today (Wednesday). Hopefully we will see an end (of the political impasse) today,” Anura Yapa, a senior leader of the independent group that had split from the ruling SLPP coalition, told PTI.

Also read: Mahinda Rajapaksa, family flee to naval base; protesters lay siege: Reports

Parliamentary sources said Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeyawardene’s plan to hold a party leaders’ meeting on the reconvening of Parliament before its scheduled date next week has become difficult as parties had raised safety issue in the current volatile situation, The Times of India reported adding, the Speaker would opt for an online meeting.

Top civil aviation official rejects allegations

In another development, Sri Lanka’s top civil aviation official asserted that he was not involved in the “illegal transport and removal of any person or persons from Sri Lanka.” Captain Themiya Abeywickrama, Director General and CEO of the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka, in a statement described the social media reports as “false allegations.”

He also made it clear that he had not threatened any license holder/pilot by interfering in the legal performance of their flying duties.

Mahinda, 76, resigned as prime minister amid unprecedented economic turmoil in the country, hours after his supporters attacked anti-government protesters, prompting authorities to impose a nationwide curfew and deploy Army troops in the capital.

The attack triggered widespread violence against pro-Rajapaksa politicians. A group of protesters gathered around the naval base in the eastern port district of Trincomalee, claiming Mahinda had taken refuge there.

Arrest Mahinda, protesters demand

Calls for his arrest are increasing for his alleged instigation of a mob which went on to attack anti-government protesters, who are calling for the Rajapaksa family, including President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to resign.

At least eight people have died while over 250 people have been injured in the clashes which also saw scores of properties belonging to ruling party politicians being set on fire. President Gotabaya has urged the people to stop “violence and acts of revenge” against fellow citizens and vowed to address the political and economic crisis facing the nation.

Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since gaining independence from Britain in 1948. The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices. Thousands of demonstrators have hit the streets across Sri Lanka since April 9.

Also read: Sri Lankan Airlines asks passengers to produce tickets, passports to reach airport

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