Gota Go Home! The Downfall of Sri Lanka's War Hero

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As of April 2022, Sri Lanka’s current president, Gotabaya (Gota) Rajapaksa, is experiencing nationwide protests advocating for his resignation. This is a serious change from when Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected as president in the late 2019 Sri Lankan presidential elections, to which he won the majority of votes (52.25%). Due to Gota’s policymaking and gross negligence, Sri Lanka is dangerously close to experiencing a famine in our present world. From the popular “war hero” of a small island south of India to almost the entire country protesting on the streets with the slogan, “Gota Go Home”[1], Rajapaksa spewed his own downfall due to economic mismanagement (resulting in a severe economic crisis), corruption & nepotism, and maintaining poor relations with the minority Sri Lankan groups (Tamils & Muslims).

Gotabaya Rajapaksa

When Gota swooped the majority of Lankans under his crumbling and vague promises in his 2019 ascendance to the presidency, Gota implemented massive tax cuts. Although initially good for the citizens, Gota failed to realize that massive tax cuts would lead to less money for the government. Sri Lanka was already suffering an unbalanced import-export & spending-earnings ratio (favoring the former) before his presidency and Gota exacerbated the monetary issue when he rose to power. In April 2021, Gota banned chemical fertilizers in the country because Gota believed that “lives are more valuable”[2], but this only further reduced exports in the country. White rice is a staple-hood for Sri Lankan exports, but the ban on fertilizers disrupted the agricultural business and worsened the already-poor import-export ratio. In the summer of 2021, the country banned the importation of luxury goods - ensuring that Sri Lanka was going to hit the worst crisis of its time. Consequently, poor policymaking resulted in the dire situation Sri Lanka is currently facing in 2022 – but no one should be surprised at these poor decisions made by Gota looking at his extensive political games & corruptive tactics.

Gota has been practicing extensive nepotism since his election to the presidency. In 2020, Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected as prime minister. In addition to Mahinda’s appointment, Mahinda’s son (Namal Rajapaksa), Gota’s eldest brother (Chamal Rajapaksa), Chamal’s son (Sashindra Rajapaksa), and nephew (Nipuna Ranawaka) were appointed to parliamentary seats. Another brother of Gota’s, Basil Rajapaksa, was the finance minister until he was forced to resign amidst nationwide protests. All Rajapaksas, except for Gota & Mahinda, resigned from their respective positions as of late April 2022. In these nationwide protests, several protestors have vented their frustrations towards the Rajapaksas’ corruption. One protestor claimed that the family “stole [money] from us” and that the family's sole motive in politics is to “steal”[3]. Although nationwide sentiment towards the Rajapaksas has been overwhelmingly negative, there are some who can turn a history lesson into a persuasive argument.

Although the current economic crisis has occurred under his government, many may argue that Gotabaya’s unfortunate circumstances were more tied to situations that were out of his control rather than in his control. For example, Sri Lanka relies heavily on its tourism industry to finance the country. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic ensuing in 2020, Sri Lanka fell heavily in tourism. In addition, the 2019 Easter bombings that took place in Sri Lanka on April 21, 2019, also played a major part in the decay of tourism in the country. With a lack of money coming in from Sri Lanka’s biggest money-making businesses, one could say that this financial crisis could’ve occurred under any president. In fact, the 2019 Easter bombings caused widespread fear over Islamic extremism attacks. The country needed a president that was going to rule with an iron fist and keep religious extremism at bay. Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the perfect candidate to tackle such terrorism as he was mainly responsible for ending the country’s 30-year-long war. In 2005, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was appointed to the Ministry of Defense and implemented major militaristic renovations to finally put an end to the LTTE’s horrific blood-driven campaign. With such a praiseworthy experience in ending the LTTE’s violent behavior, it only made sense that the people could trust Gota in keeping them away from another potentially rambunctious problem.

Albeit preventing a possible rambunctious problem, it's probably best for him to not add to the many present problems Gota has created with the country’s minorities. Gota has been accused of committing mass atrocities against the Tamil ethnic group during the country’s civil war. This includes torturing civilians, random shelling of war zones, and enforced disappearances of Tamil citizens. Despite international pressure, the Rajapaksa family has refused to allow any foreign investigations into the war crime allegations. As a result, Gota's experienced wide unpopularity with the Tamils. Additionally, Gota's relationship with the Muslims have been just as bad. Gota recently appointed a hardline monk, who is a significant figure in the BBS group, to the chairman of the Presidential Task Force in drafting a “One Country, One Law” legislation. The BBS, abbreviated for “Buddhist Power Force”, is an extremist Sinhalese nationalistic terrorist group that has been the driving force behind anti-Muslim sentiments on the island. Many riots, including in 2014, 2018, and 2019, have been spawned by BBS and its supporters. Gota’s befriending of a prime component of anti-Muslim hatred has put Gota out of Muslim support. Both minority groups providing no support to Gota, who’s already being betrayed by the Sinhalese people, has rendered Gota cushionless to any secondary backing.

Even though Gota is credited with ending the long-standing civil war in the past, the island nation refuses to fall into history lessons. Gota’s gross negligence of economic management, continuous practices of corruption, and oppression of the minority groups have proved ultimately fatal. With rising and ever-increasing demands for his resignation, he has no solution but to step down. He’s lost the trust of the very people he was sworn in to protect. Gota needs to step down now in order for a democratically elected interim government to swoop in and clear Sri Lanka of its grave crisis. Go home Gota!

ReferencesEdit

  1. "'Gota go home': desperate Sri Lankans call for President Rajapaksa to quit". the Guardian. 2022-04-14. Retrieved 2022-05-29.
  2. Rajapaksa, Gotabaya. “Importation of Chemical Fertilizers Will Be Stopped Completely.” President's Office LK, 22 Apr. 2021, https://www.presidentsoffice.gov.lk/index.php/2021/04/22/importation-of-chemical-fertilizers-will-be-stopped-completely/.
  3. "Rajapaksa government tyrannous, full of nepotism, say protestors in Sri Lanka's Colombo". The Economic Times. Retrieved 2022-05-29.