Colombo, Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka’s embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has resigned after fleeing to Singapore through the Maldives, bringing a dramatic finish to the rule of the highly effective Rajapaksa clan for greater than 20 years, abandoning a rustic in deep political and financial crises.
Rajapaksa, a 73-year-old retired navy officer, was the eighth government president of Sri Lanka.
He’s the youthful brother of the household patriarch and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who dominated Sri Lanka for 2 phrases and likewise served as prime minister till he was pressured to give up earlier this yr.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s almost three-year rule was criticised because the worst in post-independence Sri Lanka for his failure to comprise the worst financial meltdown the island has seen in a long time.
The skyrocketing price of dwelling and massive shortages of gas and different important objects triggered unprecedented protests within the nation of twenty-two million individuals earlier this yr, forcing him to flee the nation and give up.
Rajapaksa can also be faulted for reversing the nation’s democratic positive aspects by altering the structure and giving himself sweeping powers after successful the presidency in 2019.
Till just lately, Rajapaksa was hailed as a battle hero who led a ruthless navy offensive towards the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels demanding a separate state in northern Sri Lanka.
The decades-long civil battle led to 2009, leaving 1000’s of Tamil rebels, civilians and troopers useless. The offensive was led by then-President Mahinda Rajapaksa, with Gotabaya serving as his defence secretary.
Following the lethal 2019 Easter Sunday bombings in church buildings and motels, Rajapaksa, till then a political novice, was elected as president on the plank of nationwide safety as he rode on anti-Muslim sentiment within the Buddhist-majority nation.
Akram Ashroff, a 22-year-old IT undergraduate and resident of the japanese district of Batticaloa, mentioned he was a constant customer to the anti-government protest venue within the coronary heart of Colombo, dubbed “GotaGoGama”.
“He (Rajapaksa) made individuals really feel insecure, particularly the ethnic and non secular minorities. He divided the communities and was politically boastful. He can be remembered as essentially the most ineffective president who in a short while drove his nation to chapter, an unparalleled legacy,” Ashroff instructed Al Jazeera.
“Moreover, he drove spiritual hatred and focused Tamils and Muslims infrequently. He was the president of the Sinhala Buddhist majority, in his personal phrases. However these Sinhalese Buddhists have now pushed him out of workplace,” he mentioned.
He (Rajapaksa) made individuals really feel insecure, particularly the ethnic and non secular minorities.
Rajapaksa leaves a rustic in a state of chaos and with out the love he as soon as obtained from a big majority of the individuals.
“His refusal to simply accept recommendation and political immaturity contributed to his downfall. He wished to run the nation as a navy chief however not like the navy, he lacked each technique and pragmatism,” a detailed Rajapaksa aide instructed Al Jazeera on situation of anonymity.
“The constitutional modification to undo democratic reforms confirmed his lack of respect for democratic establishments. His populist politics on the finish couldn’t comprise a preferred rebellion towards him.”
Alan Keenan, a senior marketing consultant on Sri Lanka with the Worldwide Disaster Group, says Rajapaksa has left behind “a shattered and far poorer nation going through an financial collapse that threatens lives and has no straightforward or fast treatment”.
“However his failed management has additionally helped generate a citizenry newly energised and unexpectedly united of their resistance to exploitative and authoritarian rule,” he instructed Al Jazeera.
“The racism and militarism and visions of a return to pre-colonial glories that received Gotabaya – and his brother Mahinda earlier than him – a lot assist from Sinhala voters have confirmed unable to rescue the thousands and thousands now struggling to search out gas and medication or afford their subsequent meal.”
With the Rajapaksas gone, Keenan hoped the Sri Lankans would be taught “lasting classes in regards to the dead-ends of authoritarian nationalism”, discover “new political autos to hold ahead the democratisation challenge begun by the individuals’s battle” and “maintain to account – or push apart – Sri Lanka’s established political class”.
“Historical past doesn’t supply many grounds for optimism nevertheless it does carry surprises, just like the implosion of a ruling dynasty that seemed invincible lower than two years in the past,” he instructed Al Jazeera.
Shanthi Jesudasan, 41, from the northern Vavuniya metropolis and a mom of three school-going kids, mentioned she joined the protesters for 2 causes.
“As a Tamil, I’ve solely witnessed violence and discrimination concentrating on the group. My kin dwelling within the north have misplaced members of the family and have been in search of the lacking since 2009,” she instructed Al Jazeera.
“He’s the president who denied us our yesteryears and had little interest in steering this nation in direction of peace. Up to now few months, he additionally robbed the way forward for the following technology and crippled all the nation,” she mentioned.
His (Rajapaksa’s) ouster exhibits resurgence of democratic forces inside Sri Lanka and public anger towards nepotism, undemocratic practices and political conceitedness.
Dharmanath Dissanayake, a retired faculty instructor from Kurunegala, says he used to swear by the Rajapaksas as a result of the 2 brothers Mahinda and Gotabaya had been in a position to carry the civil battle to an finish.
“There was peace lastly and other people may transfer about freely with out concern. However he had no plan past that and that’s the reason Sri Lanka has now been declared bankrupt,” he instructed Al Jazeera.
“He lacked foresight and imaginative and prescient. There are allegations of corruption as effectively. He has failed all the nation, together with the Sinhalese he pledged to serve, and at last it’s the Sinhalese who introduced his regime to an finish,” he mentioned.
Publish-independence Sri Lanka has been dominated by a handful of households. Gotabaya Rajapaksa is a member of 1 such household.
Manjula Gajanayake, the chief director of the Colombo-based Institute for Democratic Reforms and Electoral Research (IRES), says Gotabaya was not elected to the presidency “attributable to some distinctive capability or service rendered” however as a result of it was a “household challenge”.
“The Rajapaksa stranglehold on Sri Lankan politics was additionally the nation’s largest nepotism challenge,” Gajanayake instructed Al Jazeera.
“He rode to workplace having whipped up communalism and drew assist from those that didn’t imagine in democracy or democratic governance. A part of his legacy is the crushing of democratic voices and areas to enhance on his nepotistic challenge,” he mentioned.
“However his ouster exhibits the resurgence of democratic forces inside Sri Lanka and the general public anger towards nepotism, undemocratic practices and political conceitedness.”
Rohan Pethiyagoda is a high Sri Lankan scientist, winner of the distinguished Linnean Medal for zoology in 2022, and a public coverage advocate.
Summing up Rajapaksa’s legacy, he mentioned: “His presidency was outlined by ignorance, obstinacy and an lack of ability to speak successfully together with his individuals. He prohibited fashionable agriculture, forcing two million farmers into destitution. He printed trillions of rupees whereas denying a causal hyperlink between cash provide and inflation. He obstinately refused to yield to knowledgeable recommendation that these ‘improvements’ would destroy the economic system.
“And for 31 months of his presidency, he didn’t maintain a single press convention, relying as an alternative on delivering poorly scripted speeches to a teleprompter. All this, haunted by the ghosts of journalists murdered on his watch,” Pethiyagoda instructed Al Jazeera.
Between 2005 and 2015, no less than 13 journalists had been murdered in Sri Lanka, press watchdogs say. Amongst these was authorities critic and founding editor of The Sunday Chief, Lasantha Wickrematunge, whose assassination was linked to Gotabaya.
A trial is ongoing within the Individuals’s Tribunal on the Hague the place incriminating proof has been given to implicate him.
Bhavani Fonseka, a human rights lawyer and researcher, instructed Al Jazeera the Sri Lankan chief is going through critical allegations of rights violations each throughout and after the civil battle.
“These are documented broadly and a few of these circumstances have been filed each regionally and internationally. This means he has had an entrenched function in these violations. These circumstances couldn’t course of partly attributable to his immunity and partly because of the weaknesses within the justice system in Sri Lanka,” she mentioned.
Fonseka mentioned the chief will all the time be linked with critical violations dedicated towards residents of the nation and that he won’t ever have the ability to escape that legacy.
“He has fled and is anticipated to resign, however the residents should keep in mind his function in all these transgressions, demand accountability and discover choices each in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. The resignation will consequence within the lack of immunity and this may make it considerably simpler to carry him accountable,” she mentioned.