The Prodigal Son

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Former Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa returned to Sri Lanka over the weekend, less than two months after he fled the country following mass protests over the nation’s collapsing economy, Voice of America reported.

Rajapaksa returned to the capital Colombo from Thailand, where he had been staying on a temporary visa. Since fleeing Sri Lanka in July, he had been in exile in the Maldives and Singapore, before settling in Thailand.

His return follows months-long demonstrations in Sri Lanka over the country’s economic woes. In May, Sri Lanka defaulted on its foreign debt of about $51 billion, while also experiencing severe fuel shortages and soaring prices.

Many protesters have blamed Rajapaksa and his family for the economic collapse. The unrest escalated to the point that protesters stormed the presidential palace, as well as the residence of Rajapaksa’s brother, and former prime minister, Mahinda.

The demonstrations, however, died down after Rajapaksa’s successor President Ranil Wickremesinghe launched a crackdown on the movement. Protesters had accused Wickremesinghe of lacking political legitimacy and protecting the Rajapaksa family.

Now, many Sri Lankans and local civil society groups said that the former strongman leader should be prosecuted.

Still, political analysts noted that Rajapaksa’s return could open the way for the powerful family to reassert itself politically in Sri Lanka.

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