Rajapaksa to seek second term as Sri Lanka crisis deepens

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COLOMBO – Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced Monday (19) he would stand for a second term, reversing a promise to only stay for five years.

Rajapaksa 72, made known his long-haul plans during a meeting with media owners on Monday, where he said he will have five more years to implement his policies, once he completes his term.

The message was also tweeted by the presidential media spokesman Kingsley Ratnayake, who said Rajapaksa had told media heads that he will have five years, after his term ends in three years, to implement his policies. The message was hash-tagged #GR #GotabayaRajapaksa #SriLanka #LKA #2ndterm

During his triumphant 2019 election campaign, Rajapaksa said he would be a one-term president and reaffirmed in March last year that one five-year term was sufficient to implement his ambitious manifesto, triggering a succession struggle within the powerful Rajapaksa family that dominates the government.

Elections are not due until 2024, but Rajapaksa now says he needs five more years to implement his ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’ manifesto after the economy contracted by a record 3.6% in his first year. The government has banned many imports because of a foreign currency crunch.

The president’s comment and the tweet by his spokesman set off new speculation about the intentions of the ruling family.

The elevation of the president’s youngest brother Basil, 70, as finance minister earlier this month was widely seen as a move to groom him for the presidency.

MPs and members of the party have made frequent claims that Basil Rajapaksa is the most qualified to run for president in the event the incumbent president doesn’t seek re-election. Basil was thought to have edged out his nephew, Namal, the minister of sports and eldest son of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, to be the next family leader.

“Another U-turn and maybe this squashes Basil’s chances for the next presidency,” said Jamila Husain, a deputy editor of an English daily newspaper, on Twitter.

Since his election, Gotabaya Rajapaksa has tightened the family grip on power.

With the entry of Basil, the cabinet now has five members of the ruling family.

Eldest brother Chamal, 78, is minister of irrigation. Several Rajapaksa family members hold junior ministerial positions and other key posts.

Basil was described as “Mr Ten Percent” in a 2007 US embassy cable published by the WikiLeaks organization, because of commissions he allegedly took from government contracts.

He has denied any wrongdoing and inquiries failed to find any evidence to back charges he siphoned off millions of dollars from state coffers.

Basil is a dual US-Sri Lankan citizen, but Gotabaya removed constitutional provisions which blocked him from standing in a parliamentary election last year.

-ENCL/AFP

 

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