Rajapaksa, the epic of a clan that destroyed the country

Sri Lanka is undoubtedly preparing to turn a page in its Rajapaksa-dominated history. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was the last member of the clan still clinging to power, is expected to resign on Wednesday, July 13. A mob of angry protesters drove him from the presidential palace on Saturday and the man fled under the protection of the army. During the rush, he was said to have left behind 17.85 million rupees, or about 49,000 euros, in cash. The protesters, who had suffered everything for months due to the severe economic and financial crisis plaguing the country, handed the new tickets to the police.

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Many local media indicate that the president is preparing to leave for Dubai. On the morning of Tuesday 12 July, agents at the main Colombo International Airport and passengers were reported to have prevented former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa from leaving the country.

This humiliating downfall of the clan, who was pushed toward the street exit, belies its reputation. The Rajapaksa family ruled Sri Lanka with an iron fist from 2005 to 2015, before returning to power in November 2019. The election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, nicknamed “Terminator”, subsequently cemented the return of family responsibilities. In the aftermath of the jihadist attacks in April 2019 that killed more than 250 people, the brotherhood soldier and former Minister of Defense, “Jota”, became famous for his brutal operations against the Tamil Tiger fighters, and presented himself as the man who could take over the country, with its security challenges. and economical.

‘Absolute favouritism’

He gradually re-established his family in control of the country. Gotabaya’s brother, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was appointed as Prime Minister. Another brother, Basil Rajapaksa, nicknamed “Mr. 10%” – in reference to the commissions he would receive on public contracts – became finance minister. And Jamal Rajapaksa, the eldest of the siblings, was given the watering can. Finally, the new generation has not forgotten: Namal Rajapaksa, Mahinda’s eldest son, who is destined to take matters into his own hands one day, has taken over the Ministry of Sports and Youth. Everyone, including Mahinda, has come under pressure to resign in recent months in the hope of keeping Gotabaya in power.

“It’s absolute nepotism, the Rajapaksa family has taken over the state”, infuriated Paikiasothi Saravanamoto, founder of the Center for Policy Alternatives, a Sri Lankan think tank. The president also pushed for an amendment to the constitution that would give him broad powers to appoint and dismiss civil servants, judges, police, and ministers, and to monitor independent human rights commissions and anti-corruption efforts. This particular maneuver was intended to protect him from any investigation into allegations of corruption and crimes that might have been committed during the civil war.

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