Election triumph gives Rajapaksas stronger grip on Sri Lanka

Updated 08 Aug 2020

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TANGALLE (Sri Lanka): Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa bows as he greets Buddhist monks at his home here on Friday after his party won the parliamentary election.—AFP
TANGALLE (Sri Lanka): Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa bows as he greets Buddhist monks at his home here on Friday after his party won the parliamentary election.—AFP

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s ruling Rajapaksa brothers secured a two-thirds majority in a parliamentary election that allowed them to rewrite the constitution and increase their power, final results showed on Friday.

The Rajapaksas’ Sri Lanka Podujana Party (SLPP) won 145 seats in Wednesday’s election and can count on at least five allies in the new 225-member legislature, according to Election Commission results.

Prime Minister Imran Khan telephoned his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa to congratulate him on his party’s victory and during the conversation expressed the hope that their countries would further improve their relations.

SLPP ideologue Gamini Lakshman Peiris said they would move to restore the president’s prerogative to sack parliament, a power that was taken away by the outgoing government in 2015.

He said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Mahinda’s younger brother, wanted to dissolve parliament no sooner he won elections in November, but the 19th amendment to the constitution prevented him.

“That is highly unacceptable,” Mr Peiris said. He did not specify what other statute changes were contemplated, but the SLPP had promised to scrap the 2015 reforms that sought to de-politicise the police, the public service, the judiciary and the election commission.

The Rajapaksas marked a dramatic return to power, seeking a super majority to carry out the promised roll-back of constitutional reforms.

“We hope the government will renew its commitments to building an inclusive economic recovery, upholding human rights and the rule of law,” the US embassy said in a statement.

The United States moved a resolution against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in 2013, accusing the then Rajapaksa government of failing to investigate alleged war crimes while crushing the Tamil rebels in 2009.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Mr Rajapaksa to congratulate him even before the final results were announced. Mr Rajapaksa said in a tweet that he looked forward to working closely with Mr Modi.

Imran’s call In his conversation with the Sri Lankan premier, Mr Khan reaffirmed Pakistan’s full support to Sri Lanka in all possible areas of cooperation.

He also reiterated his invitation to Prime Minister Rajapaksa to visit Pakistan at his earliest convenience.

He also informed his Sri Lankan counterpart of his government’s strategy to curb the spread of Covid-19 with an emphasis on saving lives while also securing livelihoods and stimulating the economy.

Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2020