Mahinda Rajapaksa, the former prime minister of Sri Lanka, gave his first public speech on Saturday following his resignation in May and the July ouster of his younger brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Mahinda, 77, was addressing a public meeting at Kalutara that was being held by his party, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). At first, he was unsure who was the country’s current president.
When he mentioned Gotabaya as the president, an assistant whispered to correct him.
“We will continue to support President Ranil Wickremesinghe to defend this government,” Mahinda said, quickly correcting his error. He was our foe, but now he is our ally.”
In the early part of this year, the entire Rajapaksa family was forced to resign from the government as a result of violent nationwide protests against them for causing the island nation’s worst economic crisis since it gained independence in 1948.
After his supporters attacked anti-government protesters and set off deadly clashes across the country, Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned on May 9. A number of politicians’ homes, some of which belonged to the Rajapaksas, were set ablaze.
After Temple Trees, Mahinda’s official residence, was besieged by enraged crowds, the military had to send him away.
He was kept safe at a naval base in Trincomalee, which is in the north-east of the country. He is also prohibited from leaving the country by a court in Colombo.
Following Mahinda’s resignation as president and prime minister on May 9, clashes left at least nine people dead and more than 200 injured. Arson attacks on personal property have occurred for 58 of his government colleagues.
Wickremesinghe, an Opposition member and a long-time rival of the Rajapaksas, took over for Mahinda as prime minister.
Gotabaya fled Sri Lanka for the Maldives in the middle of July and arrived in Singapore on July 14, where he submitted his resignation. He flew to Thailand later to find temporary safety.
As stipulated by the Constitution, Wickremesinghe took over as president for the remainder of Gotabaya’s term, which lasted until 2024.
The protests ended when Wickremesinghe became president, and legal action was taken against the protesters for occupying state buildings by force during the protests.
On September 3, Gotabaya also made his way back to Sri Lanka.