End of Rajapaksa clan

India helps the people of Sri Lanka but China keeps itself at bay
A protester holds the national flag as protestors take over the office of Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, in Colombo on Wednesday.
A protester holds the national flag as protestors take over the office of Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, in Colombo on Wednesday.ANI

New National Government

As per expectations, the Speaker of Sri Lanka’s parliament, Yapa Abeywardena has taken over as acting president after Gotabaya fled the country and resignation by the prime minister thereby facilitating the possibly of setting up of a national unity government.

It is believed that Gotabaya’s resignation might lead to optimism of restoring peace and help in persuading the protestors to leave presidential house and streets to return home to permit formation of new government.

None can deny the fact that the marches and sit-ins in Galle Face and elsewhere have been largely peaceful in the country though the participation was spread over to the villages, towns and cities in the country.

The primary reason pertained to collapse of economy leading to failure of the government to import food, fuel and medicine amid the country’s worst economic crisis in 70 years.

The bankrupt country gradually ran out of foreign currency hence it had been forced to impose a ban on sales of petrol and diesel for private vehicles, leading to days-long queues for fuel.

New leadership can win back the confidence which will require the financial assistance from international monetary fund (IMF) besides neighbor like India though it has been kept at bay by Gotabaya who had leaned towards Dragon which tried to allure it through its most controversial and dangerous ‘Debt Diplomacy’.

Sri Lanka on Boil

Due to crisis of survival, lakhs of citizens in Sri Lanka marched in the streets and into the residence of President, Gotabaya who looked towards China for help which did not do much and left him in lurch especially when foreign exchange was not available to import petrol.

The people were battling acute shortage of essential commodities including milk, baby food, etc., which were at the verge of extinction from the stocks in the country.

Experts say that only a new effective leadership and joint responsibility of all parties’ leaders can win back public trust in government and steer the island nation’s economy out of choppy waters.

India comes to Rescue

On the other hand, India, which has followed the “Neighborhood First Policy” to cement bonds with its neighbors, is ready to walk that extra mile to help Sri Lanka out of the current crisis.

India has so far committed $1.9 billion to the island nation in loans, credit lines and currency swaps.

India has also supplied over 270,000 MT fuel to Sri Lanka so far to help ease the power crisis in this cash strapped country which is also going through pangs of the power cuts in every part of the country.

The queues stretching up to 3-4 kms for essential commodities reflects the extreme grim situation which has made it impossible for the people to survive in Sri Lanka.

India has extended assistance of about $ 2.5 billion to Sri Lanka and around 40,000 tonnes of rice have been supplied under the recently extended $1 billion credit facility during the last last 3 months.

Lanka’s former foreign minister G.L. Peiris, on his first visit to India few months back had acknowledged India’s support, thereby saying that it had made the ‘world of difference’ to Sri Lanka’s economic situation.

At the same time, the flurry of agreements signed between two nations allowed both the neighbors to move on from the problems of the immediate past which had been loaded with misunderstanding and biased attitude of President Gotabaya.

End of the Dynasty

12 family members ruled Sri Lanka for 20 years namely: Gotabaya (President) Mahinda (PM), Chamul, Basil and Namul, Mhaindra (ministers), Yoshitha (chief of staff to PM), Nipuna (MP), Jaliya (former ambassador to US), Prassana (former army officer), Lalitha (consul general of Los Angels) and Kamala (cousin of Mahinda).

Having military background as in-charge of army and police from 2005 to 2015, and with little political experience, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 72, took office in 2019 and wielded executive power over Sri Lanka.

Unlike his charismatic brother Mahinda who heads the Rajapaksa clan and was prime minister until May, 2022.

Gotabaya had led a brutal government crackdown in 2009 that crushed the Tamil rebels after decades of civil war. President has been allegedly responsible for the deaths of around 40,000 civilians after herding them into so-called no-fire zones that were then bombed by the armed forces.

The figure has been released by United Nations though Gotabaya had denied his role in death squads which executed abductions, disappearances of opponents in white vans. Dubbed “The Terminator” by his own family, he created scare amongst the foes due to his short temper.

The observers believe that Gotabaya Rajapaksa may have been the most powerful of the Rajapaksa clan in terms of popular public support and the constitutional authority which he wielded as the president but he never had a firm grip in his own party, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). On the contrary, Mahinda Rajapaksa, 76, is the head of the clan.

He was party president for a decade prior to his becoming of prime minister in 2004. Mahinda was once adored by the majority Sinhala-Buddhist. He had refused an international probe into atrocities allegedly committed during the civil war.

A series of local enquiries have failed to yield either a proper war crimes investigation or prosecutions. Critics say Mahinda also did nothing to bridge the divide with Sri Lanka’s Tamils after the war which vertically divided the society.

The Tamil community is barred from commemorating their war dead and remain largely marginalized. During Mahinda’s presidency, Sri Lanka also moved closer to China, borrowing almost $7 billion for infrastructure projects -- many of which turned into white elephants mired in corruption.

In the end, Sri Lanka is at crossroads due to dubious and corrupt politicians, and public revolt may auger new era in the country’s politics.

And one loud message that people, if pushed to wall, can pull down authoritarian regimes in the whole world.

(K.S.TOMAR is a national columnist and political analyst)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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