Former Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa arrived in Colombo’s Bandaranaike International airport exactly the same way he left the country seven weeks ago—under cover of darkness and shrouded in secrecy—aided by Sinhalese politicians who closed ranks.
Just past midnight on September 3, a Singapore Airlines flight brought the former President back to his country. He was whisked away in a heavily guarded convoy of vehicles and mediapersons scrambled to confirm if indeed Gotabaya had arrived.
Sri Lankan media reported that he was met at the airport by Sri Lankan Ministers. They garlanded him and welcomed him back, an act which was unthinkable just a few weeks ago. The same Ministers had distanced themselves from him as a restive crowd demanded the resignation of the government and forced the resignation of key Ministers and bureaucrats.
The state crackdown on activists who worked on the “Gota go gama” (Gota go home) campaign since mid-July this year, which resulted in the sudden disappearance of some of these activists, was a clear indication that the state machinery was carrying out all the orders of the political bosses.
In effect, the spontaneous people’s revolution that engulfed the country just a few months ago has been put down with a heavy hand, despite the fact that it managed to unseat a President and others. It will perhaps go down as history’s shortest revolution that came undone.
Gotabaya’s party, the SLPP, essentially a family-run enterprise, began a stock-taking exercise recently to consolidate the gains made by Sinhalese politicians in the last month. In an indication that the party is already looking forward to returning to status quo, former Minister and Gotabaya’s brother, Basil Rajapaksa, who was turned away from the airport when he tried to flee in July, chaired the meeting.
Gotabaya had fled on July 9 after crowds of angry protestors broke into the Presidential palace and occupied it. He first landed in the Maldives and later left for Singapore. Although the Sri Lankan Intelligence Services chief was seen in Dubai about a week before Gotabaya fled, the former President decided not to travel to the UAE and instead moved to Thailand, where he waited for the Sri Lankan political situation to stabilise.