Gotabaya’s ascent and descent in power as the President of Sri Lanka

Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Gotabaya’s election as the President of Sri Lanka in December 2019 is unique as it exposes and endorses the underlying political ills of Sri Lanka namely racism, communalism, majoritarianism and Sinhala/Buddhist hegemony. His victory has cemented the paths of polarization and created separatist and segregating tendencies among the usual peaceful Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslim communities. This article briefly mentions the contributions of President Gotabaya to these communities during the past 30 months of his rule:

Gotabaya’s  records in the political history of Sri Lanka.

  • He is the President who held dual citizenship of USA and Sri Lanka  but later renouncing the USA citizenship due to mounting pressures in Sri Lanka,
  • He is the first President in Sri Lanka who held military posts in the Sri Lankan Army and won the presidential election.
  • He is the President who exploited his victory over the LTTE to win the presidential election in 2019 though the war was fought with the assistance of 22 countries, particularly, India, Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran.
  • He is the first President who had never indulged in politics or interacted with the public and not even been elected to serve as a member of any local bodies like Municipal Council. As such he is the non-politician being elected as the President.
  • He is the first President allegedly accused of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity etc. as revealed in several UN Special Rapporteurs Reports including Madam Yasmin Sooka’s  ITJP Reports.
  • He is the first person holding the post of Defense Secretary in 2009 who ordered the Army Commanders Savendra de Silva and Sarath Fonseka to “Kill them all” .referring to the thousands of civilians and LTTE fighters who were surrendering after the defeat of LTTE in May 2009 including the LTTE senior leaders.,
  • He holds the credit of requesting his master politician and elder brother Mahinda Rajapakshe to quit the Premiership to save his government and Presidential seat.
  • He is the only President who openly stated that “He was elected by the majority Sinhala -Buddhists ignoring the more than 65,000 Tamils and Muslims who voted for him.
  • He is the only President who expressed his intention and objective to “Serve the needs of Sinhalese and Buddhists” during his speech at the inaugural function on January 12, 2020 at Anuradhapura and considered all the others  as irrelevant.
  • Gotabaya acted in violation of the constitution when he appointed Ranil Wickremasinhe as Prime Minister who did not “Command the confidence of the majority members of the Parliament” even when his party failed to win even one seat while he himself was defeated in the elections. Ranil became an MP through the national list without the mandate of the people or his party.
  • Gotabaya is promoting and sponsoring “The One Country One Law’ doctrine and policy of an open racist and chauvinistic extremist Monk  Ahturaliya Ratnsiri Thero by appointing a commission to consider the enforcement of these divisive and destabilizing concept which targets the non-recognition and discarding of traditional, customary and historical laws including culture and traditions of other communities particularly Tamils and Muslims thereby fostering and breeding more hostility, divisions, enmity, suspicion and distrust against each other and among all the communities ultimately and irreversibly leading to  civil unrest and potential disintegration of Sri Lanka.
  • The President holds the credit of not having visited the Jaffna peninsula ignoring and adopting an exclusive approach and attitude towards them while he calls himself as the President of all Sri Lanka’s citizens.
  • He holds the dubious credit of having pardoned and released from jail several security personnel who were convicted of war crimes etc.before serving their full term but rewarded them for the commissions of the alleged crimes.
  • Peaceful protesters at Galle Face Green were assaulted,  manhandled and were locked up on May 20th 2022 on the instructions of his top officials which is a legal blow to the democratic rights and norms of freedom of assembly , association and speech.
  • Long queues in front of bakeries and groceries have become daily sites in all parts of the island reminiscent of the periods in the 1970s during Srimavo Bandaranayke’s rule [from 1970 – 1977].
  • He is also the President who according to the statement of the Army Commander in an interview with Sunday Leader on 13th December 2009 ordered Brigadier Shavendra de Silva to “Kill them all” which resulted in the killings of LTTE senior leaders and commanders. [source] Colombo Telegraph 15th October 2011.
  • It is not too late for the Prime Minister to heed the protesters’  demands and public calls  and resign his post paving way for an alternative all party Government or arrange to hold a general election to reverse and retrieve the down the road present paths of mess in Sri Lanka which is continuously afflicted with political ills, mismanagement, corruption and economic mess.
  • He is widely blamed for the current economic woes and crisis in Sri Lanka due to his inexperience and mismanagement during his past two and a half years rule as the President. He could be described as a square peg in a round hole straining to fit in.
  • Gotabaya who was hailed as a hero and modern Dudtta Gamini has been now described as a zero value President whose steep rise to power to occupy the Presidential Palace has ended in ruins and fiasco having been forced out by the popular uprising of the hungry citizens and unable to face their ire and fury.
  • After hopping from country to country to seek shelter and protection [Maldives and Dubai]. he has landed in Singapore from where he sent his resignation from Presidentship to the Speaker and has now become an ordinary citizen.
  • The irony is that Gotabaya has to search for a safe country which has not accepted the UN’s Universal Jurisdiction Clause to avoid arrest and prosecution for the crimes allegedly committed while he was in power.
  • It is reported that Gotabaya has decided to come back to Sri Lanka next month at the request of Singapore Minister Kasi Visvanathan who visited him personally on 16th July 2022 and requested him to leave Singapore within 15 days without giving an extension of stay apparently due to security issues and law and order concerns.
  • It is anybody’s guess that after his return to Sri Lanka, Gotabaya will draw his road map and hatch the ways and means to resurrect his snached political power and ambitions.

The indisputable and undeniable fact and truth is that the proximate cause of the current state of political and economic mess is the still unsolved 65 years old ethnic problem which is still awaiting a permanent and just political settlement.

Thambu Kanagasabai,  LLM [London] Former Lecturers in Law, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

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