Basil leaves having achieved two main goals

Buddhika Samaraweera

Announcing his decision to resign from the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) National List Parliamentary seat, former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa said that he returned to Sri Lanka from the US with two ambitions: Firstly, to face corruption and fraud-related cases filed against him, and secondly, to return then-Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was defeated at the 2015 Presidential Election, to a high post in the country, both of which were subsequently accomplished.

He also said that he takes no responsibility for the present economic crisis, but places the blame squarely on all, including the media and those who voted the Government into power.

Speaking at a media briefing held at the SLPP Headquarters in Colombo yesterday (9), he said: “At that time, there were two allegations against me. One of them was the allegation of corruption and fraud levelled against me when the United National Front-led Government came to power in 2015. They also filed cases against me, and last week, I was acquitted from the last case. So my first ambition was to face those cases. There was another allegation against me that I was responsible for the defeat of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2015. So I wanted to put him back in a high position that the people of this country would accept. So both of my expectations were accomplished.”

He stated that he had no intention of entering Parliament or taking over the post of Finance Minister besides achieving the above two ambitions. However, he stated that he was appointed to Parliament from the National List following a decision taken by the SLPP in July 2021, after which President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had appointed him as Finance Minister.

“Since our Government came to power, I did not take any position until July of last year. I think that I, as the Finance Minister, did everything that I could, to my fullest ability, but I was not able to do all that the people expected. However, at present, there is no use of me being an MP. I entered Parliament because I wanted to be Finance Minister, so when I left that post, I resigned from the Executive branch of governance. Next, I hoped to step down from the Legislature too. I also do not think that I belong in Parliament.”

Accordingly, Basil Rajapaksa said that he has decided to resign from the post of National List MP and that he hopes that his resignation would provide an opportunity for the SLPP to appoint a suitable person as an MP. He further stated that the letter of resignation was handed over to the Secretary General of Parliament last morning, adding that a large number of MPs representing the SLPP had pressured him not to resign.

“I think that governance and politics are two things. Therefore, the main purpose of my decision to resign from Parliament was to leave governance. Accordingly, from today onwards, I will not be involved in any activity pertaining to governance, but there is no way to stop engaging in politics. Because of that, I am ready to continue that commitment, if necessary, on behalf of all those in our party who were with me. However, we now understand that my party and I have greater potential for politics but not for governance,” he added.

Meanwhile, the media questioned him regarding statements made by certain parties, including politicians such as the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya Leader and SLPP “independent” MP Udaya Gammanpila – to the effect that Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had the opportunity to resign from politics in a honourable manner, had to resign from the post of Prime Minister recently amidst strong public demands because of his (Basil Rajapaksa’s) actions – to which he responded: “Yes, it will be over when I leave.”

The media also questioned him as to whether the SLPP, which was founded by him, would support the forthcoming 21st Amendment to the Constitution. In response, Basil Rajapaksa said: “I personally oppose the 21st Amendment to the Constitution. There is also an allegation that the SLPP is opposing the 21st Amendment to the Constitution because of me. That is one of the reasons I am resigning. I mean, except through a Constitution that is empowered by the people, we cannot give the power of the person who got 6.9 million votes to a person who got 253,000 votes. We are not opposed to giving powers to Parliament, but the current Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is not someone who was elected by Parliament. He is a person nominated by the President. It is problematic to give such a person such power.” 

He also said that he liked certain sections contained in the 21st Amendment to the Constitution such as the independent Commissions. He also stated that he was a member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party at the time of the introduction of the Executive Presidency and that he had opposed it. He said that he is still opposed to the Executive Presidency, adding however that if it is to be amended, the existing voting system should also be amended. 

“Next, one faction of the SLPP has a question as to who owns the 21st Amendment to the Constitution. Some parts of it have owners while some do not. Therefore, some of the SLPP members went to meet the Premier and Minister of Justice Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe PC to get such matters clarified. Therefore, the SLPP would probably approve a decision to be taken by the Government in the future. However, I decided to leave in advance of that because I would clearly not be able to agree with that.”

Basil Rajapaksa also said that the SLPP had repeatedly requested the President to hand over the post of the Premier and the Cabinet of Ministers to the SLPP, at least until an election is held. 

“What we ask is to give our party the place it deserves. We deserve the posts of the Premier and the Cabinet of Ministers, because the people gave power to the SLPP. If someone says that people have changed now, it can be seen in an election. Therefore, give our party its due place until an election is held. Our party also has good MPs and Ministers. That is why the people gave us power.”

Meanwhile, the media also questioned him regarding President Rajapaksa holding office despite the main demand of the people engaged in the people’s struggle at the Galle Face Green being the latter’s resignation. 

“In this case, I am not like the other Rajapaksas. I did not become an MP by vote, so I have the right to inform the party and leave. Others cannot do so because they were appointed by the people. So I hope that the President will work to save the country and the people because we all have to come together and save the people.”

The media questioned him as to whether his resignation was the beginning of another political upheaval or a permanent farewell. 

“If the people make this farewell a permanent one, I would accept that. If the people call me back, I am ready for that too, but I do not think that the people will ask me to come back. Anyway, I have to go to the US once a year, as my whole family, including my grandchildren, are there. Now, I can go there as the cases against me are over. However, I keep coming here as this is my country. Before leaving for the US, I will stay here for some time to see if there are any other cases being filed against me.”

When questioned as to whether his decision to resign was due to any influence, Basil Rajapaksa said that there was no such influence.

When queried by the media as to whether he was ready to resign and reorganise the SLPP, he said: “We as the SLPP are already ready to contest an election at any time. Also, the party will be strengthened from August. We are ready to contest an election tomorrow and bow to the people’s opinion, whatever it is. Some are trying to postpone the Local Government (LG) elections, but we as a party have said do not postpone it for any reason.”

When questioned by the media as to whether he would not take responsibility for the current economic crisis, he said: “No. This economic crisis was still there when I came in. That is why I took over as the Finance Minister. For example, when I came in, was there no fuel shortage? We all have to be responsible for this. In a way, the media and the people who gave us power, have to be held accountable. Some say we passed the ball to the people, so those who gave us the ball must also be held responsible.”

The media questioned him about the country’s foreign exchange reserves of Rs. 7 billion dropping to virtually zero during the present Government. In response, he said: “There were no reserves of Rs. 7 billion when I came in. If there were such reserves, I too could have done things. I do not accept this accusation. If the country gets anything today, it is something that I gave as the Finance Minister. Especially today, oil, flour, and fertiliser are being imported on the loans I went and discussed and got.”

He also commented on the term “Kaputu Kaak Kaak” being used to refer to him on social media these days. 

“I like that brand name. The crow is not a bad animal. I am using it as my mobile phone’s ringtone too. What I have to say is that I am not taking revenge on anyone, I do not hate anyone. I would also like to request that someone gives strength to the President and the Premier to come out of this crisis. I personally know that we will have to face even more difficulties in the future, so we must all work hard to overcome it. And I am ready to give any assistance to the present and future rulers towards that end,” he concluded.

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