Rajapaksa likely to face charges of graft and war crimes on return to Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka’s disgraced former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa is likely to face corruption and criminal charges for his role in the decades-long civil war in the South Asian island state on return.

The report comes as the media minister Bandula Gunawardana said on Tuesday that the ousted leader “is expected to come back.”

Mr Rajapaksa, who fled to the Maldives and then to Singapore earlier in July, had dispatched his resignation letter from the south-east Asian country, which was formally accepted on 15 July.

While Mr Rajapaksa enjoyed immunity as the president, he no longer is protected from prosecution and efforts are on to investigate his tenure in office, with widespread calls for his arrest.

The Tamil National Alliance, representing the country’s persecuted minority, has sought a criminal trial of the former president for the alleged crimes committed by the military against Tamil insurgents in 2009 when he was serving as defence secretary. Opposition political parties Samagi Jana Balawegaya and Marxist parties have demanded graft charges to be brought against him, reported the Strait Times.

Meanwhile, Mr Rajapaksa has received a two weeks extension on his visa in Singapore, reported Reuters, adding that he could now stay in the country until 11 August.

The Singapore authorities which are under pressure from the rights group demanding his arrest, have confirmed that he is on a short visa and has not sought asylum so far.

The International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) said the former president committed grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions during the civil war in 2009 when he was country’s defence chief, according to a copy of the complaint seen by Reuters.

The group argued that based on universal jurisdiction the alleged abuses were subject to prosecution in Singapore.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s parliament have extended the state of emergency, giving president Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government power to crack down on demonstrators protesting the country’s worst economic crisis.

The decree, passed 120-63 in the 225-member parliament though gives the president the power to make regulations in the interests of public security and order, and has to be approved every month.

Mr Wickremesinghe declared a state of emergency last week while serving as acting president before the parliamentarians elected him to serve the remaining term of his predecessor, ending in 2024.

Within a day of his election, the military raided and dismantled the camps which protestors had set for more than 100 days opposite the office of the president.

Some of the protesters were assaulted, while the court issued a travel ban against six protest leaders and some others were arrested.

Opposition parties slammed the emergency as a move to stifle dissent.

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