ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s former ruling party strategist Basil Rajapaksa returned to the country from the United States in a move what analysts and his close sources see as to save the divided nationalist Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and navigate it in a future election.
Rajapaksa, who also holds US citizenship, left the country on September after Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court granted permission to the former Finance Minister to travel overseas until January 15, 2023. He sought foreign travel for medical treatment and to attend to some personal matters.
“He has returned at a crucial juncture after the SLPP has divided into many. He will reorganize the party to prepare and win any election in the future,” an SLPP source told EconomyNext, asking not to be named.
Another SLPP source said he returned sooner than expected to Sri Lanka after the party’s division.
Rajapaksa did not comment for the queries raised by EconomyNext on his return.
The former finance minister, who resigned from his parliament post in June this year, is sued as one of the many respondents in a fundamental rights case in which he along with many former government officials are alleged for an unprecedented economic crisis.
Basil Rajapaksa is the younger brother of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Both Gotabaya and Mahinda Rajapaksa were forced to resign from their posts within two month gap due to public protests which later turned violent.
The public protest started against the SLPP and then president Gotabaya Rajapaksa due to failed economic policies that led to shortage of dollars, fuel, cooking gas, and medicines since March this year.
Since former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned, the SLPP has fragmented at least into four fractionsand many of the remaining SLPP members have been contemplating options to join other parties due to lower winning possibility under the SLPP, analysts say.
“He comes because probably Mahinda Rajapaksa wants him and Mahinda can’t play any role now,” Kusal Perera, a political columnist in local news paper said.
“He is coming for a reconciliatory role in the party and probably to provide a space for Rajapaksa’s family leadership. He is back because things have calmed down now and he could start the consolidation of party with the remaining people who are still with the party.”
However, analysts say there is uncertainty of an election in the near future because majority of the parliament do not want a general elections.
“Local government election has to be held after February after the one year extension. If the SLPP does not wants a parliament poll, the party and Basil Rajapaksa will have to back president Ranil Wickremesighe. Otherwise he can call for a snap poll after February.” (Colombo/Nov21/2022)