Sri Lanka in crisis after presidential flight

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa delivers his national statement during the second day of COP26 at the SECC on November 1 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa delivers his national statement during the second day of COP26 at the SECC on November 1 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Andy Buchanan/Getty Images)

They were once considered the heroes of the nation, almost mythical warrior leaders who defeated the separatists in a bloody civil war.

However, the final days of the Rajapaksa dynasty in Sri Lanka tell a very different story.

Early Wednesday morning, in combat President Gotabaya Rajapaksa hurriedly left the South Asian country days after thousands of angry demonstrators stormed his official residence, took a dip in his pool and demanded that he finally leave.

He was expected to retire later that day, but Gotabaya Rajapaksa did not wait to make it official. Instead, before dawn, he boarded a military plane from Colombo, the commercial capital of crisis hit countryand fled to the Maldives.

His departure is a historic moment for the island nation of 22 million, which the Rajapaksa have ruled with an iron fist for much of the past two decades before losing the faith of their once-adoring citizens.

As the country takes its first steps into a new and exciting period, experts say it’s good to reflect on what went wrong the last time since the rise and fall of Rajapaksa.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa is not the first member of the family to become president. His brother Mahinda Rajapaksaregarded by many as a war hero, was elected president in 2005 and achieved almost legendary status in 2009 when he declared victory in a 26-year civil war against the Tamil Eelam Liberation Tigers insurgency.

“The sight of Gotabai Rajapaksa fleeing Sri Lanka on an air force plane represents the (fall) of this family,” said Ganeshan Vignaraja, senior fellow at UK think tank ODI Global.

“I don’t think their legacy is positive. But there is hope that Sri Lanka will move in a new direction.”

Learn more about the rise and fall of Rajapaksa here.