COLOMBO (REUTERS) – Sri Lanka’s new president Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Sunday (July 31) it was not the right time for former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to return to the country as it could inflame political tensions, the Wall Street Journal reported.
“I don’t believe it’s the time for him to return,” Wickremesinghe said in an interview with the Journal. “I have no indication of him returning soon.”
Rajapaksa, after facing calls to resign over his handling of the country, fled on July 13 and stepped down from his position.
Days later, Wickremesinghe won a vote in parliament to become the new president.
Wickremesinghe has remained in contact with Rajapaksa to deal with administrative handover issues and other government business, the Journal said.
The crisis-hit country has been in talks with the International Monetary Fund on a bailout package. In April, Sri Lanka had suspended repayments on about US$12 billion of foreign debt and has payments of nearly US$21 billion due by the end of 2025.
Wickremesinghe expected the IMF staff-level agreement to be reached by the end of August, the report said, adding that Sri Lanka will have to secure upwards of US$3 billion from other sources next year to support essential imports including fuel, food and fertilisers.
He also told the newspaper it would be months before Sri Lankans would see any marked improvement in their economic circumstances.