Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday (8) gave up his finance portfolio to accommodate founder of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Basil Rajapaksa in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s cabinet.
Basil Rajapaksa took oaths as the Finance Minister while PM Rajapaksa was sworn-in as minister of economic policies and planning before President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat. PM Mahinda Rajapaksa earlier held finance, economy and policy development. Pushpa Rajapaksa, the wife of the new minister, was present on the occasion.
Jayantha Ketagoda, one of the SLPP’s 17 National List members resigned for Basil Rajapaksa to enter parliament. Ketagoda first entered parliament in 2011 on the DNA (Democratic National Alliance) ticket after war winning Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka lost his parliamentary seat following a court ruling.
Besides Basil Rajapaksa and Mahinda Rajapaksa, Ajith Nivard Cabraal (State Minister of Finance, Capital Markets and State Enterprise Reforms) and Shehan Semasinghe (State Minister of Samurdhi, Household Economy, Micro Finance, Self-Employment, Business Development and Underutilized State Resources Development) would be handling economic matters.
Having taken oaths as the finance minister, Basil Rajapaksa then took oaths before Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena as a member of parliament. Basil Rajapaksa first entered parliament in 2007 on the National List. He contested the Gampaha district at the 2010 general election. One-time SLFP National Organizer and dual citizen Basil Rajapaksa was away in the US at the time of the 2015 general election. At the last general election in August 2020, Basil Rajapaksa couldn’t contest as the 19th Amendment enacted in 2015 prevented dual citizens joining the fray.
The SLPP government enacted the 20th Amendment in last October at the expense of the 19th to enable dual citizens to enter parliament.
SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, who spearheaded the high profile campaign for Basil Rajapaksa’s return to parliament received his letter of appointment as the Deputy Government Whip, a post previously held by Jayantha Ketagoda.
Asked whether the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) would like to comment on the Basil Rajapaksa’s return as the Finance Minister, SJB lawmaker Dr. Harsha de Silva said the country was in dire straits. With the government struggling to cope with an extremely difficult situation with no less a person than President Gotabaya Rajapaksa acknowledging his administration faced the daunting task of meeting annual loan commitments amounting to USD 4 bn, the SLPP must be aware of the risks involved.
The former UNP non-cabinet minister said: “They must accept that economics is a science. The Rajapaksa family cannot manage our economy. If they had been capable of doing so, they would have succeeded in creating the miracle of Asia because they have been in control of it since 2005 save about four years (2015-2019). Instead people are suffering immensely. Already black markets have sprung up for foreign exchange and various commodities including fertilizer due to ad hoc political decisions. Take for instance a staple Samba a kilo is Rs 170 even though there was a surplus production of paddy last several seasons. So my advice is that they should listen to professional advice and let markets work while taking care of the needy. But if they are serious about taking this nation forward then they should ditch their import substitution model supported by the Magic Money Tree myth and link Sri Lanka with the world.”
Dr. de Silva reiterated his call for IMF’s intervention as Sri Lanka was not in a position to manage the situation on its own especially against the backdrop of a raging Covid-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, attorney-at-law Nagananda Koditiwakku told The Island that the Opposition in parliament should be ashamed of its failure to oppose Basil Rajapaksa’s entry on the National List. Alleging that the parliament collectively perpetrated a massive fraud on the people by accommodating a person contrary to Section 99A of the Constitution that stipulated only a person on the NL or contested a district at the last election could enter parliament. Kodituwakku alleged that so called civil society and election monitoring bodies remained silent for obvious reasons.
However, Chairman of the Election Commission attorney-at-law Nimal Punchihewa said that though the 99A dealt with the first round of NL appointments, it was silent on subsequent appointments. According to Punchihewa, stipulation that those named in the original NL or contested the election could be appointed through ad hoc
the NL didn’t apply to appointment made following the resignation of an original member.
With Basil Rajapaksa’s entry the cabinet has been expanded to 28. In terms of the Constitution, the number of cabinet ministers, including the president should be 30.
Disclaimer: SJB: Rajapaksa family incapable of managing national economy By Shamindra Ferdinando - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view