When Gotabaya Rajapaksa was forced from office this month, among those leading the people power movement against Sri Lanka’s deeply unpopular president were the country’s environmental activists.
For Rajapaksa, whose term in office lasted less than three years and ended with a resignation letter sent from Singapore, where he’d fled in the face of the protests, it was a far cry from how his presidency had begun. Rajapaksa’s 2019 election manifesto contained multiple promises of environmental protection and the sustainable use of natural resources. He was hailed for running the first-ever “zero carbon presidential election campaign” in Sri Lanka. But 16 days after being sworn in as president, that “environment-friendly” image was shattered when he issued an order to revoke the requirement of a permit for the transportation of sand.