Ex-prez Rajapaksa slams Lanka govt on graft allegations
Colombo: The current political stagnation in Sri Lanka has brought the country’s progress to a halt, former president Mahinda Rajapaksa said today even as he accused the new government of a witch-hunt against his family over corruption charges.
The new government of President Maithripala Sirisena has alleged that Rajapaksa and his family and close aides embezzled billions of dollars during his rule, partly by inflating the cost of Chinese-funded infrastructure projects such as the USD 1.4 billion Colombo port city.
“They have no evidence. They are making wild allegations. This is a witch-hunt. Neither I nor any member of my family has ill-gotten money. Show us the money, where is the evidence?” 69-year-old Rajapaksa said denying the charges.
Rajapaksa and his brother Gotabhaya, are also to be interrogated by anti-corruption investigators.
Gotabhaya was defence secretary and wielded enormous power during his brother’s rule.
“Ours was a very stable government that was why we had investment flows coming in with unprecedented development,” Rajapaksa said.
Work sites of many infrastructure projects undertaken by his regime have now been abandoned with thousands rendered jobless, Rajapaksa told.
People who were in direct and indirect employment are now deprived of their incomes, Rajapaksa said while charging that his successor Sirisena’s government had abandoned his policy of rapid economic growth.
“The whole country is at a standstill,” the former president charged.
He said the present governance ills were caused by Sirisena’s action of appointing a minority government headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
On his seemingly pro-China stance during his regime, Rajapaksa said, “It is not correct to say that we relied on China. India is our closest neighbor. We offered India to make use of the opportunities here. But they opted not to. Then we turned to China”.
Since his defeat to Sirisena in the January presidential election, Rajapaksa is being egged on by his loyalists to stage a political comeback.
He had handed Sirisena the leadership of the Freedom Party after his victory.
Rajapaksa sacked Sirisena who was his health minister after he challenged Rajapaksa as the opposition unity candidate mainly backed by Wickremesinghe’s UNP.
Sirisena’s new government pledged fresh elections for a new parliament within 100 days of being elected.
The 100-day period ends tomorrow but there is little sign of Sirisena’s ability to call the election.
His move to adopt the crucial 19th amendment to the constitution was thwarted as his own party called for more time. The new debate is fixed for April 27.
The 19A aims to prune excessive powers of the president with independent commissions to be set up for greater democracy and good governance.