The search for a “strong leader” in Sri Lanka had begun in earnest soon after the deadly Easter Sunday terror attacks. The Islamic State inspired strikes in different churches and luxury hotels in April had killed more than 250 people and crippled the tourism industry that employed nearly 500,000 Sri Lankans. Furthermore, it had seriously shaken the confidence of the nation and ripped open the fissures in a society, prone to long spells of religious and ethnic strife.
The attacks on Muslim minorities in different parts of the island soon after the bombings had only confirmed the worst fears of sectarian marginalisation. In addition, the political bickering between President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe—including an abortive coup by the president to get his prime minister replaced—led to serious policy paralysis in the administration. More significantly, revelations in subsequent months that vital intelligence on the terror attacks was ignored by the government deepened the sentiment that the country was being governed by a totally inept leadership.