• President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was spotted near the international airport on Monday
  • This sparked speculations he will flee to exile abroad
  • Rajapaksa had already signed his resignation dated July 13: Local media reports

Sri Lanka's embattled president and his brother failed to leave the country amid widespread protests over the unprecedented economic crisis in the island nation.

Immigration officials withdrew from operations as a former minister and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s brother, Basil Rajapaksa, tried to flee the country Tuesday.

“Immigration and emigration officials withdrew from operations in the ‘Silk Route’ lounge at the BIA when former Minister Basil Rajapaksa attempted to leave Sri Lanka. Rajapksa was to fly to Washington via Dubai,” Sri Lanka-based Daily Mirror wrote in a tweet.

A day before, President Gotabaya was spotted at an airbase near the main international airport, sparking speculation he will flee to exile abroad. The 73-year-old leader fled his official residence in Colombo under naval protection, just before tens of thousands of protesters stormed the building.

Gotabaya has reportedly signed a resignation letter dated July 13, and the official announcement could be made Wednesday by the Speaker of Parliament, according to Sri Lanka-based Daily Mirror.

His brother Basil resigned as finance minister in early April as protests increased against shortages of fuel, food and other necessities. He quit his seat in parliament in June.

People at the main international airport of Colombo started protesting Tuesday when they saw Basil trying to depart, Indian Express reported, citing a person with knowledge of the matter.

Grainy phone videos were shared on social media showing the unrest after someone said they saw Basil in the terminal. People demanded he should not be allowed to leave the country.

The people of Sri Lanka are angry and have been protesting for months over the living conditions in the country. The nation is witnessing severe shortages of food, fuel and medicines with inflation expected to hit 70% amid the worst economic crisis. They blame the crisis on Rajapaksa family’s policies.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe -- who has also pledged to hand in his resignation Wednesday -- spoke out publicly for the first time after his private house was set on fire by anti-government protesters Saturday. Wickremesinghe said only people with a “Hitler-like mindset” torch buildings.

Speaking in a special televised statement, Wickremesinghe said he took over "the difficult task to rebuild the economy at a time when the public was undergoing hardships without fuel, cooking gas and electricity. The cost of living was high, no fuel, there was a foreign exchange crisis. People were losing jobs. I saw the suffering of the people,” according to News 18.

On Monday, a spokesperson of the U.N. Secretary-general issued a statement regarding the crisis in Sri Lanka.

"Secretary-General continues to follow developments in Sri Lanka closely. He stands in solidarity with the Sri Lankan people and calls on all stakeholders to engage in dialogue to ensure a smooth transition of govt and to find sustainable solutions to the economic crisis. The Secretary-General condemns all acts of violence and calls for those responsible to be held accountable, underlining the paramount importance of maintaining the peace. The United Nations stands ready to support Sri Lanka and its people," the statement read.

There were also speculations India was sending its troops to Colombo to control the angry protesters. However, the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka dismissed the claims.

"The High Commission would like to categorically deny speculative reports in sections of media and social media about India sending her troops to Sri Lanka. These reports and such views are also not in keeping with the position of the Government of India," the Indian High Commission said in a tweet on Sunday.

"The Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs of India clearly stated today that India stands with the people of Sri Lanka as they seek to realize their aspirations for prosperity & progress through democratic means & values, established institutions & constitutional framework."

People crowded to visit Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's residence after it was overrun by protestors
People crowded to visit Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's residence after it was overrun by protestors AFP / Arun SANKAR