The divisive legacy of Sri Lanka’s Gotabaya Rajapaksa | News & More News

 

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 govt president of Sri Lanka.

He is the youthful brother of the household patriarch and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who dominated Sri Lanka for 2 phrases and in addition served as prime minister till he was pressured to give up earlier this 12 months.

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 many years.

The skyrocketing price of dwelling and large shortages of gasoline and different important gadgets triggered unprecedented protests within the nation of 22 million folks earlier this 12 months, forcing him to flee the nation and give up.

Rajapaksa can be faulted for reversing the nation’s democratic positive aspects by altering the structure and giving himself sweeping powers after profitable the presidency in 2019.

Interactive - Who is Gotabaya Rajapaksa?

Divisive legacy

Until just lately, Rajapaksa was hailed as a struggle 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 struggle led to 2009, leaving hundreds 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 people feel insecure, especially the ethnic and religious minorities. He divided the communities and was politically arrogant. He will be remembered as the most ineffective president who in a short time drove his country to bankruptcy, an unparalleled legacy,”  Ashroff advised Al Jazeera.

“Besides, he drove religious hatred and targeted Tamils and Muslims from time to time. He was the president of the Sinhala Buddhist majority, in his own words. But these Sinhalese Buddhists have now driven him out of office,” he mentioned.

He (Rajapaksa) made folks really feel insecure, particularly the ethnic and non secular minorities.

by Akram Ashroff, Student

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 accept advice and political immaturity contributed to his downfall. He wanted to run the country as a military leader but unlike the military, he lacked both strategy and pragmatism,” a detailed Rajapaksa aide advised Al Jazeera on situation of anonymity.

“The constitutional amendment to undo democratic reforms showed his lack of respect for democratic institutions. His populist politics at the end could not contain a popular uprising against him.”

Alan Keenan, a senior guide on Sri Lanka with the International Crisis Group, says Rajapaksa has left behind “a shattered and much poorer country facing an economic collapse that threatens lives and has no easy or quick remedy”.

“But his failed leadership has also helped generate a citizenry newly energised and unexpectedly united in their resistance to exploitative and authoritarian rule,” he advised Al Jazeera.

“The racism and militarism and visions of a return to pre-colonial glories that won Gotabaya – and his brother Mahinda before him – so much support from Sinhala voters have proven unable to rescue the millions now struggling to find fuel and medicine or afford their next meal.”

With the Rajapaksas gone, Keenan hoped the Sri Lankans would be taught “lasting lessons about the dead-ends of authoritarian nationalism”, discover “new political vehicles to carry forward the democratisation project begun by the people’s struggle” and “hold to account – or push aside – Sri Lanka’s established political class”.

“History does not offer many grounds for optimism but it does bring surprises, like the implosion of a ruling dynasty that looked invincible less than two years ago,” he advised Al Jazeera.

Shanthi Jesudasan, 41, from the northern Vavuniya metropolis and a mom of three school-going youngsters, mentioned she joined the protesters for 2 causes.

“As a Tamil, I have only witnessed violence and discrimination targeting the community. My relatives living in the north have lost family members and have been looking for the missing since 2009,” she advised Al Jazeera.

“He is the president who denied us our yesteryears and had no interest in steering this country towards peace. In the past few months, he also robbed the future of the next generation and crippled the entire country,” she mentioned.

His (Rajapaksa’s) ouster exhibits resurgence of democratic forces inside Sri Lanka and public anger in opposition to nepotism, undemocratic practices and political conceitedness.

by Manjula Gajanayake, Analyst

Dharmanath Dissanayake, a retired faculty trainer from Kurunegala, says he used to swear by the Rajapaksas as a result of the 2 brothers Mahinda and Gotabaya had been capable of carry the civil struggle to an finish.

“There was peace finally and people could move about freely without fear. But he had no plan beyond that and that is why Sri Lanka has now been declared bankrupt,” he advised Al Jazeera.

“He lacked foresight and vision. There are allegations of corruption as well. He has failed the entire country, including the Sinhalese he pledged to serve, and finally it is the Sinhalese who brought his regime to an end,” he mentioned.

‘Nepotism project’

Post-independence Sri Lanka has been dominated by a handful of households. Gotabaya Rajapaksa is a member of one such household.

Manjula Gajanayake, the chief director of the Colombo-based Institute for Democratic Reforms and Electoral Studies (IRES), says Gotabaya was not elected to the presidency “due to some unique ability or service rendered” however as a result of it was a “family project”.

“The Rajapaksa stranglehold on Sri Lankan politics was also the country’s largest nepotism project,” Gajanayake advised Al Jazeera.

“He rode to office having whipped up communalism and drew support from those who did not believe in democracy or democratic governance. Part of his legacy is the crushing of democratic voices and spaces to improve on his nepotistic project,” he mentioned.

“But his ouster shows the resurgence of democratic forces within Sri Lanka and the public anger against nepotism, undemocratic practices and political arrogance.”

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 incapability to speak successfully along with his folks. 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 ‘innovations’ would destroy the economic system.

“And for 31 months of his presidency, he didn’t hold a single press conference, relying instead on delivering poorly scripted speeches to a teleprompter. All this, haunted by the ghosts of journalists murdered on his watch,” Pethiyagoda advised Al Jazeera.

Between 2005 and 2015, not less than 13 journalists had been murdered in Sri Lanka, press watchdogs say. Among these was authorities critic and founding editor of The Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunge, whose assassination was linked to Gotabaya.

A trial is ongoing within the People’s Tribunal on the Hague the place incriminating proof has been given to implicate him.

Bhavani Fonseka, a human rights lawyer and researcher, advised Al Jazeera the Sri Lankan chief is going through severe allegations of rights violations each throughout and after the civil struggle.

“These are documented widely and some of these cases have been filed both locally and internationally. This indicates he has had an entrenched role in these violations. These cases could not process partly due to his immunity and partly due to the weaknesses in the justice system in Sri Lanka,” she mentioned.

Fonseka mentioned the chief will all the time be linked with severe violations dedicated in opposition to residents of the nation and that he won’t ever have the ability to escape that legacy.

“He has fled and is expected to resign, but the citizens must remember his role in all these transgressions, demand accountability and explore options both in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. The resignation will result in the loss of immunity and this will make it somewhat easier to hold him accountable,” she mentioned.

 

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