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A damaged bust of D.A. Rajapaksa, father of both the president and the former prime minister, lies amid wreckage at a museum in the family stronghold of Hambantota on May 11.   © Reuters
Asia Insight

Flight of the Rajapaksas: Sri Lankan dynasty faces reckoning

Accused of mismanagement and corruption, the nation's top clan is down but not out

MARWAAN MACAN-MARKAR, Asia regional correspondent | Sri Lanka

BANGKOK -- As dawn broke in Sri Lanka on May 10, helicopters roared over the house of an elderly couple who had just sat down for tea. "There's something fishy going on," the husband, a retired civil servant who spoke on condition of anonymity, recalled telling his wife.

His hunch was correct. The Sri Lanka Air Force had deployed two Bell 412EP helicopters from Ratmalana Airport for an unprecedented rescue mission: to fly Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had quit as prime minister hours earlier, from Colombo to a heavily fortified naval base on the northeastern coast of the Indian Ocean island. Until then, the 76-year-old -- the patriarch of the family that has dominated Sri Lankan politics for nearly two decades -- had lived at Temple Trees, the prime minister's residence in the commercial capital.

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