Sri Lanka: Ex-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa claims 'foreign conspiracy' ousted him in 2022

Gotabaya pens an explosive memoir on what led to his stepping down from prez post

SRI LANKA-CRISIS/RAJAPAKSA Former Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa | Reuters

With just months away from the elections in Sri Lanka, former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa has claimed that he was ousted from power in 2022 due to “international conspiracy.”

In 2022, when the Aragalaya struggle was at its peak, Gotabaya fled the country and later sent in his resignation. He even claimed that his life was in danger. His flight to Maldives and then Singapore was the most tracked by the public in recent history. Later Ranil Wickremesinghe was elected as the president and the country went for IMF loans to get out of the deep economic crisis.

Gotabaya, who returned to Sri Lanka in 2023, chose to stay away from the political circles in Colombo. He had avoided any public gatherings or political meetings in the past year since his return.

However, during this time, Gotabaya had penned an explosive memoir titled, ‘Conspiracy to Oust Me’ to tell his side of the story and what led to the regime change in Sri Lanka. The book is available in the bookstores in Sri Lanka in English and Sinhala from March 7. The announcement came from Gotabaya himself on March 6.

The front cover reads “How internationally sponsored regime change made a mockery of democracy in Sri Lanka. The conspiracy to oust me from the presidency by Gotabaya Rajapaksa,” with an image of the disgraced president. The back cover of the book says what made Gota write the memoir and his early life as a soldier in the Sri Lankan army.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa memoir Copies of the 'The Conspiracy' book written by toppled Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, are on display at a bookshop in Colombo | AFP

“It was a pleasure reading this book, because it is an objective reflection of the incidents and events that occurred, starting from 2015. And it is also a little sad because it brings back all of the unpleasant memories. From this time, I also feel proud of Rajapaksa for taking the all-out effort and time to write his story, his first-hand experience of this whole scenario,” said Eranda Ginige, former advisor to Gotabaya, when he served as the president.

“You would have heard versions of this by different people. But I always said that it is not complete until the very person who was at the centre of the whole thing or the very person who was targeted, writes his story. So here we have it now. The book has a lot of facts. The author Mr Rajapaksa has tried to be very factual and objective as much as possible. So it is not a mud-slinging, blame-passing kind of book. It is a very honest, reflective, objective explanation of the whole thing of somebody who saw him from the middle. There are huge life lessons in this book,” added Ginige.

The book Ginige points out is an insight into how Gotabaya sees the scenarios that unfolded before him, how he perceived the external threats and how he responded to them. “No one else across the globe would have survived a regime change of this sort. Probably the first time that a president who was removed by regime change wrote his story,” he said.

Earlier in a press release on March 6, the former president said, “Foreign intervention has weighed heavily on Sri Lanka since we won the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 2009.”

“From the time I was elected president in November 2019, certain foreign and local parties were intent on removing me from power. The entirety of my two-and-a-half-year tenure in power was spent combating the COVID-19 pandemic that swept through Sri Lanka and the whole world soon after I took office. Conspiratorial forces commenced the political campaign to oust me from the presidency at the end of March 2022 after the pandemic had been brought under control and the vaccination campaign had been concluded and just when the economy was beginning to recover,” he had said.

He also added in the release that foreign intervention and the manipulation of internal politics has become a fact of life in Sri Lanka in a manner never experienced in the first sixty years of independence of this country.

“The political campaign to oust me brought in a new element into the politics of Sri Lanka which has since independence experienced only peaceful transfers of power following elections. As such the events of 2022 are fraught with serious implications for the future of this country. What this book explains is the first-hand experience of an internationally sponsored regime change operation. As such I believe this book will be of interest not only to Sri Lankans but also foreigners.”

Gotabaya’s political career in 2012 also began with the launch of a book titled, ‘Gota’s War–The Crushing of Tamil Tiger Terrorism in Sri Lanka’. Written by one of his close associates and journalist C.A. Chandraprema, the book talked in detail about the role of Gotabaya during the war and it credited him for the defeat of the Tamil Tigers. It was after this that Mahinda lost the elections. It was just ahead of the elections that Mahinda had expelled India’s Research and Analysis Wing (R and AW) chief K. Ilango for interfering in the Sri Lanka election. Ilango was removed from looking into Sri Lankan affairs then and the political buzz in Colombo was that Gotabaya had a hand in it.

A man who was always known to be impatient, Gotabaya first came to meet the foreign press in huge numbers only after the Easter bombings in 2019. In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK in 2019, soon after the Easter bombings, Gotabaya shared his love for reading books and the ones he read on various issues in Sri Lanka apart from army, defence and security. He even shared how he was close to a few of the Indian bureaucrats like Shivashankar Menon and M.K. Narayanan.

And now Gota’s new book, which political circles in Sri Lanka say is a strategy to launch the Rajapaksa brothers, who became unpopular, back in the fray. With presidential elections due in November this year there are new contenders like the JVP or NPP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake (AKD) and Sajith Premadasa. AKD was one of India’s high-profile guests recently.

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