Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has fled the country amid widespread anger at an economic meltdown with many protesters blaming the powerful Rajapaksa family which has controlled a host of government positions and stands accused of corruption.
Gotabaya was given his first government role by his elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa. Mahinda Rajapaksa became Sri Lanka’s president in 2005. Gotabaya was appointed defence secretary, which put him in charge of the war against the Tamil Tigers rebel group.
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With him seen as a war hero by many, others accused him of war crimes. He said ” These allegations are quite absurd, Take for instance the allegations that the security forces killed or gravely mistreated those who surrendered or were detained. This has been repeated loudly and repeated often but it is not an accusation that stands up to scrutiny.”
He stepped down in 2015 when Mahinda lost power, but the family returned after coordinated bombings killed more than 250 people on Easter Sunday in 2019. Local armed groups allegedly affiliated with ISIL were blamed for the attacks.
Gotabaya won the next election and reappointed Mahinda as PM. ” Meritocracy and technocracy should be promoted at all times. Corruption will never be tolerated under my administration.
At one point, the Rajapaksas in government included the president, two of his brother and two nephews. But the family’s grip on power slipped as this year’s economic crisis hit.
Mahinda stepped down as PM after a group of his supporters attacked anti government protesters on may 9. He said ” Even if we cant stop this crisis in two or three days, we will solve it as soon as possible. Every minute you protest on the streets, we loose an opportunity to earn dollars for the country.”
Protesters say they want the Rajapaksas to face justice over Sri Lanka’s crisis.