The Hindu (Mumbai)

Former President of Sri Lanka Gotabaya Rajapaksa turns author, defends regime

- Meera Srinivasan

Two years after his dramatic ouster from office by a popular people’s movement, Sri Lanka’s former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has sought to defend his regime, by launching a book that attributes his political downfall to a “conspiracy” involving foreign and local parties.

Announcing his book ‘The Conspiracy to oust me from the Presidency’ on Wednesday, Mr. Gotabaya said in a statement: “From the time I was elected President in November 2019, certain foreign and local parties were intent on removing me from power.”

During Mr. Gotabaya’s Presidency from November 2019 to July 2022, Sri Lanka experience­d its worst economic crisis since Independen­ce in 1948, as the country ran out of dollars for essential imports, following a host of fiscal decisions taken by his government. Citizens spent days in long queues, struggling to access basic food items, cooking gas, and medicines, while grappling with prolonged power cuts in their homes. Holding his government responsibl­e for their suffering, people from diverse background­s took to the streets in a historic protest across the island nation.

They relentless­ly agitated with the demand “Gota go home”, eventually forcing the besieged leader to flee the country and subsequent­ly resign in July 2022, less than three years since he was elected President.

Sri Lanka crisis

In a significan­t judgment last year, Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court reiterated the position held by the citizens’ movement, ruling that the Rajapaksa brothers — Mr. Gotabaya, Mahinda Rajapaksa, Basil Rajapaksa — along with top officials in their government, “demonstrab­ly contribute­d” to the 2022 economic crisis and “violated public trust”. However, taking no responsibi­lity for the country’s financial collapse, Mr. Gotabaya squarely blamed “conspirato­rial forces” for his removal from office.

In a reference to the time he took the decision to resign while in Singapore, Mr. Gotabaya writes that he had, by then, decided Mr. Wickremesi­nghe would be his successor, “because I saw him as the only person capable of restoring law and order in the country.” On July 20, 2022, Ranil Wickremesi­nghe was elected President through an urgent parliament­ary vote, in which the Rajapaksas’ party, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP or People’s Front) backed him. Mr. Gotabaya returned to Sri Lanka in September 2022. He lives in a state bungalow in Colombo with special security accorded to him by the Wickremesi­nghe administra­tion.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan newspaper Daily Mirror reported that Mr. Basil, the SLPP’s strategist, is scheduled to meet with President Wickremesi­nghe and former President Mr. Mahinda on Thursday evening to discuss a possible alliance for the presidenti­al polls and general elections scheduled later this year.

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Gotabaya Rajapaksa

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