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Key players Rajapaksa siblings in Sri Lankan politics

By Neelam Rahim

The brother of Sri Lanka’s President and the country’s former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa says he resigned from parliament. He is now the second politician from the influential Rajapaksa family to step away from government amid a severe economic crisis. He has, however, reiterated that he would not walk away from politics. The President is Gotabaya Rajapaksa. His elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as Prime Minister last month after prolonged protests against the economic crisis turned deadly. Mahinda remains a member of parliament.

The three Rajapaksa siblings have been key players in Sri Lankan politics for decades. Still, they are blamed by protestors who have taken to the streets in their thousands in recent months for mishandling the nation’s economy. In-fighting between the brothers has also played a part in Sri Lanka’s slide into turmoil, but Basil Rajapaksa is likely to retain influence. The new prime minister is Ranil Wickremesinghe, and his leading efforts to find a way out of the crisis with negotiations underway with the IMF for a loan programme and support from friendly countries, including India and China.

Radio Islam discusses with Thayagi Ruwanpathirana South Asia research at amnesty international.

Tyagi says, “The weekend before he resigned on the 9th, he took a pilgrimage in

Anuradhapura, so I think a lot of people believe that it was coming up, and finally, he had a farewell party at the prime minister’s official residence. A large crowd gathered that day for the farewell, then attacked peaceful protesters, and violence erupted afterwards. And so it was in the middle of all this that his resignation letter was released. There’s no real resolution to the political crisis as of now.”

Tyagi further says, “This is seen as a positive development. But at the same time, critics also argue that it could be because constitutional laws are coming. Those reforms would probably bar duo citizens from coming into parliament, and thereby, he would have lost his seat anyway.”

“The Podujana Peramuna party Rajapaksa dominated party which came into existence only in the past few years. The two main traditional parties in Sri Lanka, the UNP and the SLFP, had split. The SLFP split and Rajapaksa clan of the SLFP split away and made this SLPP, and they ran for local government for the first time in 2018, and they managed a tremendous win,” says Tyagi.

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