Sri Lanka ex-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa turns author, defends his discredited regime 

In his book launched on Thursday, former President of Sri Lanka attributes his dramatic ouster by a citizen’s uprising to a conspiracy hatched by ‘certain foreign and local parties’

Updated - March 07, 2024 05:16 pm IST

Published - March 07, 2024 02:58 pm IST - COLOMBO

Copies of the ‘The Conspiracy’ book written by toppled Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, are on display at a bookshop in Colombo on March 7, 2024.

Copies of the ‘The Conspiracy’ book written by toppled Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, are on display at a bookshop in Colombo on March 7, 2024. | Photo Credit: AFP

 

Two years after his dramatic ouster from office by a popular people’s movement, Sri Lanka’s former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has sought to defend his tainted regime, by launching a book that attributes his political downfall to a “conspiracy” involving foreign and local parties.

Announcing his book ‘The Conspiracy to oust me from the Presidency’ on March 6, Mr. Gotabaya said in a statement: “From the time I was elected President in November 2019, certain foreign and local parties were intent on removing me from power.”

During Mr. Gotabaya’s Presidency from November 2019 to July 2022, Sri Lanka experienced its worst economic crisis since Independence in 1948, as the country ran out of dollars for essential imports, following a host of fiscal decisions taken by his government. Citizens spent days in long queues, struggling to access basic food items, cooking gas, and medicines, while grappling with prolonged power cuts in their homes. Holding his government responsible for their suffering, people from diverse backgrounds took to the streets in a historic protest along capital Colombo’s seafront and in several other districts across the island nation.

They relentlessly agitated with the demand “Gota go home”, eventually forcing the besieged leader to flee the country and subsequently resign in July 2022, less than three years since he was elected President, and barely two years after his pulled together a formidable majority in Parliament.

In a significant judgment last year, Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court reiterated the position held by the citizens’ movement, ruling that the Rajapaksa brothers — Mr. Gotabaya, Mahinda Rajapaksa, Basil Rajapaksa — along with top officials in their government, “demonstrably contributed” to the 2022 economic crisis and “violated public trust”. However, taking no responsibility for the country’s financial collapse, Mr. Gotabaya squarely blamed “conspiratorial forces” for his removal from office. “What this book explains is the firsthand experience of an internationally sponsored regime change operation,” he said in the statement.

In an excerpt from Mr. Gotabaya’s self-published book, featured in local portal Newswire, the widely discredited leader attempts to reconstruct the last moments of his Presidency as he saw them, before he fled the island and took refuge in the Maldives first, and Singapore later. “The plan was to fly to Singapore in a private plane, but the Indian authorities had not allowed this private plane to fly to Male. So, I gave instructions that tickets be obtained on a commercial flight to Singapore,” Mr. Gotabaya writes.

Later, in a reference to the time he took the decision to resign while in Singapore, Mr. Gotabaya writes that he had, by then, decided Mr. Wickremesinghe would be his successor, “because I saw him as the only person capable of restoring law and order in the country.” On July 20, 2022, Ranil Wickremesinghe was elected President through an urgent parliamentary vote, in which the Rajapaksas’ party, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP or People’s Front) backed him. Mr. Gotabaya returned to Sri Lanka in September 2022, after seven weeks in Singapore. He lives in a state bungalow in Colombo with special security accorded to him by the Wickremesinghe administration.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan newspaper Daily Mirror reported that Mr. Basil, the SLPP’s strategist, is scheduled to meet with President Wickremesinghe and former President Mr. Mahinda Thursday evening to discuss a possible alliance for the presidential polls and general elections scheduled later this year.

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