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Crazy Facts About The Rajapaksas, Sri Lanka’s Most Powerful Family, Now On The Run

Gotabaya Rajapaksa was forced to flee the country and resign as president, Mahinda was forced to resign as prime minister and Basil was prevented by airport staff from fleeing to Dubai – these are some things Sri Lanka’s most powerful political family has had to go through recently – something that was unimaginable in the country until recently.

PA/File

This is because the Rajapaksas enjoyed an almost superhero image among the Sri Lankan population for their role in ending the 26-year-old Tamil separatist insurgency in 2009 when Mahinda was the president, Gotabaya the secretary at Defense, Basil, the Minister of Economic Development and Chamal the Speaker of Parliament.

Here are some facts about the Rajapaksa family

The Rajapaksa brothers are the children of Don Alwin Rajapaksa, a Sri Lankan politician and freedom fighter and founding member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. Besides their political connections, the family made a fortune from growing coconuts, rice, and rubber.

Don Alwin Rajapaksa
historical research

The second generation enters national politics

Unlike their father whose political influence was confined to their hometown of Hambantota, the second generation had national ambitions.

Mahinda, the fourth of nine siblings, was the first to enter national politics. In 2005 he became President of Sri Lanka and remained in power until 2015.

Mahinda Rajapaksa
BCCL

He also appointed his older brother Chamal as Speaker of Parliament, Gotabaya as Defense Secretary and Basil as Finance Minister.

Gotabaya – from army to minister and president

Gotabaya started his career in the Sri Lankan Army in 1971 and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1991.

He then emigrated to the United States and returned to Sri Lanka in 2005 to help his brother Mahinda in his presidential election. After Mahinda’s victory, Gotabaya was appointed Secretary of Defense.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa
PA/File

He played a key role in crushing the LTTE and was popularly referred to as “The Terminator”.

He resigned from his post in 2015 after Mahinda’s defeat in the elections and in 2019 became President of Sri Lanka.

Citizenship controversy

In 2019, when Gotabaya was running for president, one of the biggest allegations he faced was about his citizenship. Gotabaya who emigrated to the United States in the 90s had become a naturalized American citizen and even had an American passport.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa
PA/File

He renounced his US citizenship ahead of the 2019 election due to a law barring foreign nationals from running for president.

Superstition runs in the family

When Mahinda was president, one of the most powerful men in the country was his astrologer Sumanadasa Abeygunawardena. Mahinda is said to have made all key decisions after consulting her astrologer.

Rajapaksa
PA

But it cost him dearly in 2014 after he declared a snap general election on the advice of Abeygunawardena who predicted a huge victory for Rajapaksa.

When the election result was announced in January 2015, Rajapaksa lost to his former health minister, Maitripla Sirisena.

Even Gotabaya had his own group of astrologers and it is widely believed that he pre-announced his resignation on July 13 for astrological reasons. July 13 was a full moon day and is considered auspicious in Buddhism.

It’s all about Hambantota

The Rajapaksas have not forgotten their roots and have invested the nation’s resources in their hometown Hambantota.

This includes the port of Hambantota and a Chinese-funded and built airport.

Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Hambantota is a classic case of abuse of power by the Rajapaksas.

hambantota airport
Wikimedia

It is dubbed the emptiest airport in the world because flights rarely land there. It is alleged that the airport was built only because Rajapaksa wanted a big airport in his home town.

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