Sunday, August 14, 2022

Lanka’s ex-finance minister Basil resigns from Parl

Basil Rajapaksa, the youngest brother of Sri Lanka’s president and former finance minister, resigned from his parliamentary seat on Thursday, the second such resignation from the cash-strapped government in a month from the powerful Rajapaksa family amid massive public protest over the unprecedented economic crisis in the country.
With the Rajapaksas coming under intense public pressure for their mishandling of the economic crisis, Mahinda Rajapaksa, the prime minister and elder brother of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, had to resign last month.
Talking to reporters here, Basil said, “I resigned my seat to allow Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) to nominate someone suitable.”
Asked if he had preempted resignation as he would be disqualified to be in Parliament through the proposed 21st Amendment (21A) to the Constitution due to his holding of both the US and Sri Lankan dual citizenship, Basil, the youngest of the Rajapaksa brothers, said it wasn’t so.
Basil, however, said he is opposed to the 21st Amendment, the Daily Mirror newspaper reported.
The 21A aims, among other reforms, at barring dual citizens from contesting elections to hold public office.
The 21st Amendment is also expected to annul the 20A to the Constitution, which gives unfettered powers to President Gotabaya after abolishing the 19th Amendment that will strengthen Parliament.
In a direct attack on Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Basil said he is against presidential powers being pruned to be vested with a prime minister not elected by the people. His elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa had to resign amidst public anger against the government’s inability to handle the economic crisis.
Wickremesinghe last week batted for the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, saying it will curb the president’s unlimited powers while enhancing the role of Parliament in governing the debt-ridden country which is also facing an unprecedented political turmoil.
Both Basil, 71, and Mahinda, 76, fell victim to public rage as demonstrations became widespread urging the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 72, over the economic crisis.
Widely regarded as the intellectual pillar of the Rajapaksa family of political brothers, Basil was the finance minister of Sri Lanka until April 4 when he was sacked by President Gotabaya as the country’s economic crisis worsened.
He was accused of being partially responsible for the economic crisis in the country.
However, Basil denied that the economic crisis was not his making and the country should have gone to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout much earlier.
Sri Lanka is currently in the process of striking a bailout deal with the IMF.
Basil said he was the one who initiated engagement with the IMF but there was another group in the government against it at that time.
He said the government should go for an IMF programme on a sound footing.
Basil asserted it was his initiative — making contact with India for credit lines — that saved Sri Lanka from suffering more.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament that no country except India is providing money to the crisis-hit island nation for fuel.
Meanwhile, billionaire businessman Dhammika Perera is tipped to be nominated as the SLPP national list parliamentarian to fill the seat vacated with the resignation of Basil, the Colombo Page news portal reported.


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