Sri Lankan protesters stormed the prime minister's office in Colombo (Image: AAP/EPA/Chamila Karunnarathne)

The sudden collapse of the near 20-year rule of the Rajapaksa family regime in Sri Lanka is a demonstration of the inherent fragility of states built around corruption and patronage. They trundle on — until they don't. 

 It’s a warning, too, to countries like Australia: you can’t rely on collaboration with corrupt regimes to, say, “stop the boats”. 

Since 2013, Australia has adopted a low profile on human rights abuses in Sri Lanka and shrugged off concerns about corruption to keep the regime on-side with the seizure and return of asylum seekers arriving by boat.