Singapore has granted a 14-day short-term visit pass to former Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa as he entered the country on a "private visit" on July 14, according to immigration authorities here.

Rajapaksa, 73, on July 13 fled Sri Lanka to the Maldives and then Singapore and resigned after a popular uprising against his government for mismanaging the economy.

In a statement released in response to media queries about Rajapaksa's visit to Singapore, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority said that he was granted a short-term visit pass (STVP) on arrival. Rajapaksa was issued a 14-day visit pass when he arrived here on July 14, according to a report by The Straits Times newspaper.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said last week that Rajapaksa has not asked for asylum and neither has he been granted any asylum.

The ICA said visitors from Sri Lanka who enter Singapore for social visits will generally be issued with an STVP with a duration of up to 30 days. Those who need to extend their stay here may apply online for an extension of their STVP. Applications will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, said the ICA.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankans in Singapore remain optimistic about the situation back home. But they say a real change has to go beyond the changing of guards with more decisive policies and more engaged voters, Channel News Asia reported as it interviewed several Sri Lankans in the country.

Skipping meals

Some Sri Lankans in Singapore are skipping meals to save money and sending items such as medicine and other essential goods back to their home country amid the economic crisis there. Some are shipping bicycles as it is very difficult to travel in the country, one Sri Lankan told the Channel.

“People are using bikes as a mode of transport and we have a shortage of bikes (back home) because we have only two manufacturers (in the country)," said Samira Peiris, an engineer, who had recently moved to Singapore to work.

Peiris says a meal in Singapore is equivalent to three back home and as such he skips meals and cuts down on spending. “This is not purely out of desperation but I don’t feel it is right for me to enjoy life here when people back home are suffering.” He said many others like him in Singapore are coming up with ways to contribute.

Paul William, an auditor, said that Sri Lankans in Singapore would definitely send money when they can. But they want to send it through a reliable source as that is the main concern. “If it goes into the wrong hands, then there is no point,” said William. "Every single time we meet a Sri Lankan, this is the discussion we have."

William, a permanent resident here, is concerned about how his 72-year-old mother is coping. He is sending her money through the United Kingdom where his sister is based.

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