There was some method in the madness when violence was unleashed on the peaceful protesters in Sri Lanka demanding the exit of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his elder brother and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Of course, it forced the elder one to quit both his office and residence, Temple Trees. He did so only after violence went out of control, killing eight people, including the suicide of a key official and his security guard. This gave the President an excuse to impose the Emergency on the island nation a second time since protest over the economic crisis began in April last. He has given the army extraordinary powers to arrest citizens without any warrant and even search their houses. As the one who led the army’s final assault on the LTTE in wanton disregard of human rights, Gotabaya Rajapaksa is immensely capable of such strong-arm methods against the people.
It is against this backdrop that demand has arisen for the arrest of Mahinda Rajapaksa, who precipitated the present crisis by encouraging his party cadres to attack the protestors, who had received international acclaim for their peaceful protest. In any case, he is the one who reduced democracy in Sri Lanka into an oligarchy consisting of his extended family and friends. As someone who ruled with an iron hand, he cannot escape blame for overspending which brought about the worst-ever economic crisis since Sri Lanka attained independence in 1948. Today, the situation is such that the country has become bankrupt with no money even to import essential items. He blamed Covid-19 for the economic crisis, little recognising his own extravagant spending on projects like the Green Airport that has no takers.
The former prime minister was too clever by half when he claimed that his resignation was to facilitate an all-party government under his brother and president. He knows only too well that if his younger brother remains in power, he will still be able to rule by proxy. The present situation is unlikely to instill confidence in the International Monetary Fund with which the new finance minister has been negotiating for a deal to save the nation from bankruptcy. What the people need is a total regime change with the rulers having no personal baggage. If the president repeats the strategy he employed against the LTTE to overcome the crisis, it will be disastrous for the Indian Ocean island.