Rajapaksas tighten grip on power as PM’s brother joins Sri Lanka government

Colombo, July 8 (EFE).- Basil Rajapaksa, the younger brother of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, took oath as the finance minister of Sri Lanka Thursday.

He became the fifth member of the Rajapaksa family to join the government, which has one more of their brothers, Chamal Rajapaksa, as the irrigation minister.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s son Namal Rajapaksa is already a cabinet member as the youth and sports minister.

Basil joined parliament after the resignation of a lawmaker and the controversial revocation of a constitutional clause that prevented him from being a parliamentarian due to his dual citizenship.

Basil, also a US citizen, is the founder of the ruling party, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP).

The all-important finance portfolio was until now held by the prime minister.

Basil’s swearing-in has raised concerns of human rights defenders about the Rajapaksa family’s growing control over the island nation.

“Clearly we can see that the country is going into a worse situation than it is now. This will end in a dictatorship,” Sandya Eknaligoda, a human rights activist and wife of missing journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, told EFE.

She said she was less hopeful of justice in alleged human rights violations, like in her husband’s case, after the appointment of a new Rajapaksa to the parliament.

The Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA) said the appointment “undermines the value of the franchise of the people and unnecessarily and arbitrarily inflates the power of the leadership of political parties.”

Human rights activists fear that investigations into enforced disappearances during Mahinda’s presidential term (2005-2015) will be shelved.

Gotabaya was then the defense chief and presided over the final offensive against the guerrillas of the Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009.

According to complaints received by the state-run office for missing persons, at least 23,000 people disappeared during the operation that ended almost three decades of the Sri Lankan civil war.

But Amnesty International says that figure could be as high as 100,000.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch groups allege that the Sri Lankan government muzzled the voices of criticism and hindered the probe into the crimes committed during the civil war,

The European Parliament in June this year recommended withdrawing the preferential trade status GSP+ from Sri Lanka until it fulfilled its promise of annulling the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The government has, however, decided to continue with the criticized law. EFE


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