• Thursday, Sep 23, 2021
  • Last Update : 11:38 pm

Rajapaksa family tightens grip on crisis-hit Sri Lanka

  • Published at 04:47 pm July 8th, 2021
web-Gotabaya Rajapaksa, middle, Sri Lanka\
File photo: Gotabaya Rajapaksa, middle, Sri Lanka People's Front party presidential election candidate and former wartime defence chief, with his brothers are seen as they leave after handing over nomination papers at the election commission ahead of Sri Lanka's presidential election, scheduled for November 16 in Colombo, Sri Lanka on October 7, 2019 Reuters

The Sri Lankan cabinet headed by Gotabaya Rajapaksa now has five members of the Rajapaksa family

A brother of Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Thursday became finance minister, tightening the family's grip on power in the South Asian nation as it confronts growing economic troubles. 

Basil Rajapaksa, 70, took over the finance portfolio from another brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The 72-year-old president has put Mahinda in charge of a newly created but lower-level economic policies and planning ministry.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, 75, was the country's president for a decade up to 2015, and Basil, who is known as the family's political strategist, managed the economy then.

Basil takes charge now after the economy recorded a coronavirus-inflicted 3.6 percent contraction for 2020, the worst since independence from Britain in 1948.

With his entry, the cabinet headed by Gotabaya now has five members of the Rajapaksa family.

Eldest brother Chamal, 78, is minister of irrigation while the prime minister's eldest son Namal, 35, is the youth and sports minister.

Several Rajapaksa family members hold junior minister positions and other key positions in the administration.

Basil Rajapaksa was described as "Mr Ten Percent" in a 2007 US embassy cable published by the WikiLeaks organisation because of commissions he allegedly took from government contracts.

He has denied any wrongdoing and inquiries failed to find any evidence to back charges he syphoned off millions of dollars from state coffers.

As a dual US-Sri Lankan citizen, Basil was prohibited from standing in the 2020 election, but Gotabaya removed constitutional provisions which prevented his entry to the legislature.

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