The Fallen Dynasty of Sri Lanka Is Already Planning Its Next Comeback!


As President Rajapaksa prepares to resign, his 36-year-old nephew looks ahead. For years, the Rajapaksa dynasty dominated Sri Lanka with an iron fist, terrifying political opponents, journalists, and other perceived threats to their dominance. Protesters are now chasing them out of their homes and power.

The Fallen Dynasty of Sri Lanka Is Already Planning Its Next Comeback!

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 73, is expected to resign on Wednesday, following months of mass protests over rising costs and shortages of basic supplies including food and gasoline.

The Fallen Dynasty of Sri Lanka Is Already Planning Its Next Comeback!

After spending time holed up at his official beachside mansion, demonstrators yelling “Gota Go Home” forced him to depart in dramatic circumstances on Saturday while breaking the compound’s gates.

The unrest demonstrated public outrage at Rajapaksa, whose three-year administration has left Sri Lanka pleading for money from the International Monetary Fund and nations such as China and India after the country defaulted on foreign debt for the first time since gaining independence from Britain in 1948.

Bondholders are also enraged: the Rajapaksas were named in a lawsuit last month seeking more than $250 million in overdue debt – the first of potentially many.

But it wasn’t just protesters who wanted Rajapaksa out of office: other members of his family saw him as a dormant leader.

And one of his 36-year-old nephews, Namal Rajapaksa, has already begun to consider how the dynasty can rebuild its reputation in the long run, even as the increasingly violent protests have some observers wondering if the entire family may be forced into exile.

Namal said in a recent interview at the ruling party’s Colombo office, which was trashed by a crowd during the May 9 violence, that Gotabaya “should complete his time and then go.”

He called the family’s current situation a “temporary setback,” adding that the goal now was “to offer as much stability as we can to address the basic needs of the folks while working on long-term strategy.”

Namal is the eldest son of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the current president’s brother who was president from 2005 to 2015.

With Gotabaya as his defense minister at the time, Mahinda destroyed a three-decade Tamil insurrection with savage tactics that sparked widespread concern about civilian casualties.

Simultaneously, the brothers worked to eliminate political opposition while amassing billions of dollars in debt, primarily to China.

Despite losing power in a tense 2015 election, the Rajapaksas returned four years later, with Gotabaya as president and Mahinda as prime minister.

However, a succession of policy mistakes combined with the epidemic quickly resulted in food and fuel shortages, sparking widespread protests and forcing Mahinda to resign as prime minister in May.

According to sources familiar with the matter, Mahinda fought Gotabaya’s pleas for him to step up for weeks before finally relenting. Gotabaya was the final Rajapaksa left in the government at the start of the year, and he’ll be gone soon.

According to Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, a Colombo-based research group, the difficulties between the brothers reflect their divergent leadership styles.

“Mahinda is a populist politician who the people still adore,” Saravanamuttu explained. “However, Gota is a far more reticent, introverted individual with little expertise in governing.”

Whereas the Rajapaksas used to avoid public sparring, they are now pointing fingers at one another. In an interview last month at his official residence, which is presently held by protesters, Gotabaya admitted that broad tax cuts and a fertilizer ban enacted shortly after he took office failed.

But he portrayed those blunders as collaborative and said his request for a bailout from the International Monetary Fund last year was turned down by advisors and family until protests became violent.

“I didn’t obtain the backing or effective execution from the people who were accountable,” Gotabaya said, adding that he will not run for president again once his current term ends in 2024.

Namal stated that his father disagreed with the implementation of broad tax cuts and encouraged Gotabaya not to implement an ill-advised ban on synthetic fertilizers. “If my father had been president, he would never have made that decision,” Namal claimed. Requests for comment from Mahinda went unanswered.

The Fallen Dynasty of Sri Lanka Is Already Planning Its Next Comeback!

Regardless of who is to blame, the Rajapaksas are at an all-time low and in desperate need of a rebranding. And Namal is presenting himself as the primary successor of the next generation.

Namal spoke with the measured, calm tone of a seasoned politician during the interview. The former sports minister, who enjoys bodybuilding, donned a short-sleeved shirt that revealed part of his biceps.

Namal stated unequivocally that his policies will be more in line with his father’s than his uncle’s. Sri Lanka’s difficulty, he explained, was that it strayed from a goal to make the country a manufacturing and transshipment center.

He also saw the need to enhance airports in order to attract more tourists and to increase agricultural output so that the country could feed itself.

He acknowledged his family’s history in power, but he also stated that he does not believe in “dynastic politics.”

“My father began 55 years ago in Hambantota, and I began five years ago – it’s a long path in politics,” Namal explained. “This is a hard patch, so deal with it and go on.”

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