Sri Lanka’s ex-leader seeks fresh elections

ECONOMYNEXT – Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa Saturday renewed his call for fresh elections after accusing the current government of failing to manage the economy and keep the exchange rate stable.

"We want an election," Rajapaksa told reporters at his official residence in Colombo. The Joint Opposition (JO) had summoned the press conference to discuss the exchange rate as the rupee hit a record low against the US dollar.

Asked what the realistic level of the currency should be, none of the Joint Opposition leaders responded except to say that if they were in power they would have managed the rupee and the economy better to ensure stability.

Former Central Bank governor Nivard Cabraal said a lack of confidence in the administration fuelled the exchange rate and "everything" that the Central Bank was doing was "wrong." Steps taken by the government to manage the crisis were in the "wrong direction."

A US dollar bought 131 rupees when Rajapaksa left office. The currency had fallen considerably since then and as of Friday a US dollar bought nearly 169 rupees.

Sri Lanka went through two balance of payments crises in 2008/9 and 2011/2012.

The government argues that the strength of the US currency globally was reflected in Sri Lanka too, but the JO argued that the government should have a strategy to mitigate the effects of a rising green back.

The former leader said he would handle the crisis differently but declined to discuss details.

“Have elections and give us power. Then we will tell you how we will manage. I have proved myself before,” he said when pressed for the JO’s proposals to contain the rise of the US currency. 

At the start of the press conference, JO MP Dullas Alahapperuma announced only questions on the exchange rate will be entertained and no other subject will be discussed. However, the former president did field a few queries about his Indian visit.





He refuted media claims that he had anointed his younger brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as his nominee over son Namal as an opposition candidate at the 2019 presidential election.

“What the media said was completely wrong. What I said was that the party will decide who the candidate will be. One of my brothers may also be a candidate to seek nominations from the party,” Rajapaksa said. (COLOMBO, September 22, 2018)


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