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, forsaking 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 stop earlier this 12 months.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s practically 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 many years.
The skyrocketing price of residing and large shortages of gasoline and different important objects triggered unprecedented protests within the nation of twenty-two million folks earlier this 12 months, forcing him to flee the nation and stop.
Rajapaksa can also be faulted for reversing the nation’s democratic features by altering the structure and giving himself sweeping powers after profitable the presidency in 2019.
Till not too long ago, Rajapaksa was hailed as a conflict hero who led a ruthless navy offensive in opposition to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels demanding a separate state in northern Sri Lanka.
The decades-long civil conflict 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, stated he was a constant customer to the anti-government protest venue within the coronary heart of Colombo, dubbed “GotaGoGama”.
“He (Rajapaksa) made folks really feel insecure, particularly the ethnic and spiritual minorities. He divided the communities and was politically smug. He will likely be remembered as essentially the most ineffective president who in a short while drove his nation to chapter, an unparalleled legacy,” Ashroff informed Al Jazeera.
“Apart from, he drove spiritual hatred and focused Tamils and Muslims once in a while. 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 stated.
He (Rajapaksa) made folks really feel insecure, particularly the ethnic and spiritual minorities.
Rajapaksa leaves a rustic in a state of chaos and with out the love he as soon as acquired from a big majority of the folks.
“His refusal to simply accept recommendation and political immaturity contributed to his downfall. He needed to run the nation as a navy chief however in contrast to the navy, he lacked each technique and pragmatism,” a detailed Rajapaksa aide informed 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 in opposition to him.”
Alan Keenan, a senior guide on Sri Lanka with the Worldwide Disaster Group, says Rajapaksa has left behind “a shattered and far poorer nation dealing with 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 informed Al Jazeera.
“The racism and militarism and visions of a return to pre-colonial glories that gained Gotabaya – and his brother Mahinda earlier than him – a lot help from Sinhala voters have confirmed unable to rescue the hundreds of thousands now struggling to seek out gasoline and drugs or afford their subsequent meal.”
With the Rajapaksas gone, Keenan hoped the Sri Lankans would study “lasting classes concerning the dead-ends of authoritarian nationalism”, discover “new political automobiles to hold ahead the democratisation challenge begun by the folks’s battle” and “maintain to account – or push apart – Sri Lanka’s established political class”.
“Historical past doesn’t supply many grounds for optimism but it surely does carry surprises, just like the implosion of a ruling dynasty that seemed invincible lower than two years in the past,” he informed Al Jazeera.
Shanthi Jesudasan, 41, from the northern Vavuniya metropolis and a mom of three school-going kids, stated she joined the protesters for 2 causes.
“As a Tamil, I’ve solely witnessed violence and discrimination focusing on the neighborhood. My family members residing within the north have misplaced relations and have been on the lookout for the lacking since 2009,” she informed Al Jazeera.
“He’s the president who denied us our yesteryears and had no real interest in steering this nation in the direction of peace. Prior to now few months, he additionally robbed the way forward for the following technology and crippled all the nation,” she stated.
His (Rajapaksa’s) ouster exhibits resurgence of democratic forces inside Sri Lanka and public anger in opposition to nepotism, undemocratic practices and political vanity.
Dharmanath Dissanayake, a retired college instructor from Kurunegala, says he used to swear by the Rajapaksas as a result of the 2 brothers Mahinda and Gotabaya have been capable of carry the civil conflict to an finish.
“There was peace lastly and folks may transfer about freely with out worry. However he had no plan past that and that’s the reason Sri Lanka has now been declared bankrupt,” he informed Al Jazeera.
“He lacked foresight and imaginative and prescient. There are allegations of corruption as properly. 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 stated.
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 “resulting from some distinctive means 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 informed Al Jazeera.
“He rode to workplace having whipped up communalism and drew help from those that didn’t consider 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 stated.
“However his ouster exhibits the resurgence of democratic forces inside Sri Lanka and the general public anger in opposition to nepotism, undemocratic practices and political vanity.”
Rohan Pethiyagoda is a high Sri Lankan scientist, winner of the celebrated Linnean Medal for zoology in 2022, and a public coverage advocate.
Summing up Rajapaksa’s legacy, he stated: “His presidency was outlined by ignorance, obstinacy and an incapacity to speak successfully along with his folks. He prohibited trendy agriculture, forcing two million farmers into destitution. He printed trillions of rupees whereas denying a causal link between cash provide and inflation. He obstinately refused to yield to professional recommendation that these ‘improvements’ would destroy the financial 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 informed Al Jazeera.
Between 2005 and 2015, not less than 13 journalists have 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 Folks’s Tribunal on the Hague the place incriminating proof has been given to implicate him.
Bhavani Fonseka, a human rights lawyer and researcher, informed Al Jazeera the Sri Lankan chief is dealing with critical allegations of rights violations each throughout and after the civil conflict.
“These are documented broadly and a few of these instances have been filed each domestically and internationally. This means he has had an entrenched function in these violations. These instances couldn’t course of partly resulting from his immunity and partly because of the weaknesses within the justice system in Sri Lanka,” she stated.
Fonseka stated the chief will all the time be linked with critical violations dedicated in opposition to residents of the nation and that he won’t ever be capable 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 end result within the lack of immunity and it will make it considerably simpler to carry him accountable,” she stated.