9Photo courtesy of Lakpathy Wijesekara)

Opinion

The end of a dynasty and the start of a Sri Lankan revolution

How an inadequate president's downfall sparked the uprising of Sri Lankans worldwide.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/sithumadigapola/" target="_self">Pramuditha Madigapola</a>

Pramuditha Madigapola

July 17, 2022
Sri Lanka is a hidden gem of a country with different species of flora and fauna that go on longer than the thickest of books and a rich culture with colors, music and dance unlike any other in the world. However, this once-hidden gem is unveiled as the country experiences its most significant economic crisis since we gained independence as the Dominion of Ceylon in 1948. Held accountable for this is a dynasty of unqualified leaders: The Rajapaksas. The last of whom has won the title of the worst president of Sri Lanka in the hearts of citizens everywhere. 

Since 2019, Sri Lankans worldwide have been flooded with multiple news updates, heartbreaking stories and unrest of all the terrible things happening to our dear country.

By the end of 2019, Sri Lanka established populist tax cuts, which reduced government revenue. And when the pandemic hit, Sri Lanka lost even more money due to the lack of tourism, which was already declining since the Easter Sunday Terrorist Attacks in April 2019, according to the Washington Post.

The pandemic made a big problem even more prominent, with nearly 500,000 people falling into poverty, according to The Guardian. The relationship between Sri Lanka and money was deteriorating, with the country being $50 billion in external debt and owing $7 billion this year to foreign countries with only $1.6 billion in foreign exchange reserves, according to the Washington Post

For the past two decades, the Rajapaksa family has had a tight grip on the positions in the Sri Lankan government, with Mahinda Rajapaksa as president from November 2005 to January 2015, according to the New York Times. And in January 2015, Mahinda Rajapaksa lost the presidential election to Maithripala Sirisena, who was in office until 2019.

However, the rule of Maithripala Sirisena still included the Rajapaksas when Sirisena appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister in 2018, according to Al Jazeera News. When Maithripala Sirisena’s term ended, he was succeeded by Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s younger brother, in the 2019 presidential election, according to Outlook India.

Gotabaya established many family members in his cabinet, according to The New York Times, forming a leadership comprised of a money-driven family. This family was compelled to make money, not for the country but for themselves. According to The Times, Mahinda Rajapaksa looted the land of “more than $5 billion,” investing much of it into foreign assets. And as reported by The Colombo Telegraph, he also stole $633,000 from the Tsunami relief funds.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa banned items that were helpful to the country, such as chemical fertilizer and pesticides, in an attempt to become the world’s first organic farming nation. According to Al Jazeera, when Gotabaya came into the presidency, the two brothers had controlled “up to 70% of the national budget.” The president’s decisions on how the country made money when COVID was skyrocketing have been distasteful, and now the entire country has to face the consequences of a selfish president.

Sri Lankans worldwide have been protesting in the streets since March, calling for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to step down due to the country’s economic mismanagement, fuel shortages and other necessities, power outages, high inflation and the sharp increase in the cost of living, according to the New York Times.

And on July 9, the protesters stormed the capital buildings and homes of the president and prime minister to further show their need for change, according to the Times of India. Protesters played the piano, slept on the beds, watched TV, swam in the pool and much more during their stay at the building, also stated by the Times of India, and served as a message of the pride people have in their country and their need to change it.

Within every protest of Sri Lankans everywhere, it has been proven that ​​the Rajapaksas can rob the country’s riches, but they can never take away the resilience of our people.

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