Sri Lanka crisis | Ex-finance minister Basil Rajapaksa resigns from Parliament

The resignation of former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa from his parliamentary seat makes him the second Rajapaksa to resign in a month amid Sri Lanka’s economic and political crisis

June 09, 2022 06:51 pm | Updated June 10, 2022 12:14 am IST - Colombo

Basil Rajapaksa, the younger brother of Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya  Rajapaksa, speaking during a press conference in Colombo on June 9.

Basil Rajapaksa, the younger brother of Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, speaking during a press conference in Colombo on June 9. | Photo Credit: AFP

Sri Lanka’s former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa on June 9 said he was resigning from Parliament, even as he sought to deflect blame for Sri Lanka’s economic grave crisis.

Mr. Basil stepped down from his ministerial post early in April amid furious public protests demanding that the Rajapaksa clan quit office, taking responsibility for the downturn that has left citizens struggling amid record inflation and acute shortages of essentials. In May, former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stepped down, but remains a legislator.     

Although he was resigning as a legislator, Mr. Basil said he would continue to be politically active in the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP, or People’s Front) that he built from scratch after former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s poll defeat in 2015.

His family was “better at politics than governance,” the resigning MP told reporters, adding: “India’s RSS has been around for years, but they do not govern directly. The BJP has taken on that role.” This is not the first time Mr. Basil has likened his party’s politics to that of India’s ruling party. He has in the past vowed to model the SLPP on the Chinese Communist Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party that he called “the best two” examples.

In July 2021, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed Mr. Basil, the youngest of the Rajapaksa brothers, as Finance Minister. He became the fourth Rajapaksa brother to enter cabinet at that time. Until then, Mr. Mahinda who was Prime Minister at that time also helmed the Finance Ministry. As it faced wide public criticism owing to the economic meltdown, the ruling party projected Mr. Basil – who was Economic Development Minister in the former Rajapaksa administration – as the man who would bring much-needed pragmatic solutions to the raging crisis. Except, power cuts, shortages, and price rise worsened in the following months, leading to greater citizens’ mobilization from the beginning of this year.

Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna | A party for the Rajapaksas

“I think I did all that I could do. But I couldn’t do everything the people wanted,” said Mr. Basil who, along with Mr. Gotabaya and Mr. Mahinda, has been openly attacked by demonstrators.

On whether the proposed 21st Amendment (21A) to the Constitution, with a clause barring dual citizens from entering the House, contributed to his decision, Mr. Basil, who is also an American citizen, said it had not. Mr. Basil said he gave up his seat to make way for someone suitable. It is widely rumoured that Dhammika Perera, a businessman and casino magnate, could be brought to Parliament in his place.

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