Sources have told the BBC that Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is stationed on a navy vessel in Sri Lankan waters whilst a lawmaker claimed he is in a "nearby country", after being escorted from his home before protesters occupied his residence this weekend.
Since protests flared in the capital on Saturday, Rajapaksa's whereabouts have been unknown but he will reportedly return on Wednesday, July 13, and resign from his post as president.
Sources have told the Tamil Guardian that the president is on a navy vessel. It remains unclear whether he is still within Sri Lanka's territorial sea boundaries, with rumours he may be closer to the Maldives.
The BBC however quoted sources as stating "he is on a navy vessel in Sri Lankan waters".
Map of the Sri Lankan Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) (Source: Maritime Boundaries Geodatabase, Flanders Marine Institute).
When asked about the president's whereaboutsb, Speaker of Sri Lanka's Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said,
"At the moment he is, er, somewhere outside... in a nearby country".
When asked whether Rajapaksa has left Sri Lanka, he simply responded "yes" and said he would return to the island on Wednesday
As the BBC pushed Abeywardena on where exactly Rajapaksa was and whether he had fled to India, he laughed and said "due to security reasons I can't divulge that".
Activity at Colombo Port
Early on Saturday morning, whilst protestors were rummaging through Rajapaksa’s belongings, several suitcases of luggage were seen being loaded onto the Sri Lankan navy vessel SLNS Gajabahu.
The boat, an Advanced Offshore Patrol Vessel of the Sri Lanka Navy, was docked at Colombo Port.
— Tamil Guardian (@TamilGuardian) July 9, 2022
Previously President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's brother and former Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, fled to a navy base in Trincomalee amidst protests in May. The besieged former Sri Lankan prime minister fled to the Tamil North-East after facing a night of angry protests outside his residence at Temple Trees. Hundreds of people had arrived at the gates of the base, demanding that Rajapaksa, who is accused of war crimes and genocide, be imprisoned.
Mahinda Rajapaksa is also currently reported to be at a protected naval base in the country.
There has been no official word from the office of the president that has confirmed that Rajapaksa will resign from his post. This weekend there were mass protests in Colombo in which demonstrators stormed the president’s residence, the Secretariat office, Temple Trees and burned down the private residence of the prime minister.
Speaking to the BBC's World Service Newshour, Abeywardena claimed that "there was not really mismanagement as such but there were shortcomings" and blamed the country's economic collapse on the pandemic.
Read more from the BBC.