South Asia

Basil Rajapaksa joins new pro-Mahinda party

Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa tried to become prime minister during the parliamentary elections held seven months after his shock defeat, but failed and now pulls strings from behind the scenes as a backbencher.  

Strengthening rumours about former President Mahinda Rajapaksa floating a new political party, his brother and former Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa on Thursday formally joined Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (Sri Lanka People’s Front), a new political outfit launched by the former President’s supporters.

Likening the new party – chaired by former Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris – to the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) founded by former Prime Minister S.W.R.D Bandaranayake, Mr. Rajapaksa said SLPP was now doing exactly what the SLFP did in 1951, when Mr. Bandaranayake broke away from the United National Party (UNP).

For nearly five decades now, Sri Lanka’s southern electorate has been loyal supports of either the SLFP or the UNP. While political commentators here argue that a leader backed by neither party would find it hard to make a mark, Mr. Basil Rajapaksa said the SLPP was “the new tree coming out of the SLFP seed”, emphasising that the new outfit was committed to "old SLFP values".

“When S.W.R.D Bandaranayake and my father D.A. Rajapaksa left the UNP, people called them orphans. But later, they went on to create history, building a party that would become one of the two main parties of Sri Lanka,” he said at a press conference, held at a bungalow near the parliament in Colombo. A huge banner of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa stood tall beside a swimming pool inside the building. His photographs were put up in every room, and the wall clock too had a picture of the leader.

"President Rajapaksa will join the party at the right time…he is our vision, he is the leader in our hearts,” said the former Minister, who was arrested last year for allegedly misappropriating public funds. He was later released on bail.

The development assumes significance amid apparent efforts of the Joint Opposition – an informal coalition of pro-Rajapaksa political groups – to challenge the country’s first unity government formed by the UNP and the SLFP.

Observing that people were disillusioned with the current SLFP, and concerned about the country’s and economic situation, Mr. Rajapaksa said security could be assured only from a party and government led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. “It is now the SLPP which will become one of the two main parties of the country,” he said, on the eve of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s birthday.

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2020 10:36:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/south-asia/Basil-Rajapaksa-joins-new-pro-Mahinda-party/article16666686.ece

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