This past Tuesday, the embattled president of Sri Lanka has been forced to flee his country in the wake of protesters forcing their way inside the Presidential Palace in order to force both the Prime Minister and him to resign.
As read in a report from the BBC, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa made it to the Maldives via a military jet at roughly 03:00 local time. The President had stated previously that he would be resigning but fled the island nation before officially doing it. This is likely due to the fact that while still in office he was entirely immune to prosecution, and many observers seem to think that he wanted to get out of the country before giving up his legal immunity and thereby allowing himself to be arrested by the government stepping in to replace him. Rajapaksa had been deep in hiding for almost a week in the wake of protesters moving on the palace.
The exile of the president is most likely the end of a long-standing familial dynasty that has ruled over Sri Lankan politics for the past few decades. Mahinda, the president’s brother, was lionized by most Sinhalese Sri Lankans due to his government defeating Tamil separatists back in 2009, marking an end to a long and deadly civil war that had, for many decades, afflicted the multiethnic state.
“It is no secret that the majority who voted for me then were Sinhalese,” explained Rajapaksa to his parliament back in 2020. “They rallied because they had legitimate fears that the Sinhala race, our religion, national resources, and the heritage would be threatened with destruction in the face of various local and foreign forces and ideologies that support separatism, extremism, and terrorism.”
Basil Rajapaksa, another of the brothers, was the minister for the president and is thought to have left the country as well with many sources claiming that he was headed over to the US. It is still entirely unclear who will take over for the fleeing president. As stated in the Sri Lankan COnstitution, Ranil Wickremesinghe, the prime minister, should take over as acting president in the event of the resignation of the president, but due to extreme public backlash, he is also being forced to resign. Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, the speaker of parliament, is the next one in line but is a known ally of the Rajapaksa family and is most likely to be seen as tainted in the eyes of the public as well. Various other political parties throughout parliament have talked about the creation of a new unity government, but as of writing, no details concerning that possibility have come to light.