Sri Lanka president hits airport standoff in escape attempt

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Sri Lanka’s embattled president was stuck in his own country on Tuesday in a humiliating standoff with airport immigration staff blocking his exit to safety abroad, official sources said.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa has promised to resign on Wednesday and clear the way for a “peaceful transition of power” following widespread protests against him over the country’s unprecedented economic crisis.

The 73-year-old leader fled his official residence in Colombo just before tens of thousands of protesters overran it on Saturday and wanted to travel to Dubai, officials said.

As president, Rajapaksa enjoys immunity from arrest, and he is believed to want to go abroad before stepping down to avoid the possibility of being detained.

But immigration officers were refusing to go to the VIP suite to stamp his passport, while he insisted he would not go through the public facilities fearing reprisals from other airport users.

The president and his wife spent the night at a military base next to the main international airport after missing four flights that could have taken them to the United Arab Emirates.

Rajapaksa’s youngest brother Basil, who resigned in April as finance minister, missed his own Emirates flight to Dubai early Tuesday Basil tried to use the paid concierge service for business travelers, but the airport and immigration staff said they were withdrawing from the fast track service with immediate effect.

“There were some other passengers who protested against Basil boarding their flight,” an airport official told

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