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Another member of Sri Lanka’s ruling clan resigns

#member #Sri #Lankas #ruling #clan #resigns

Another member of Sri Lanka’s ruling family resigned from public office on Thursday, rejecting responsibility for an economic crisis that has inflicted severe hardship on the island nation.

Basil Rajapaksa was once called “Mr. Ten Percent,” in reference to commissions he allegedly skimmed off government contracts. He has insisted that he had committed no wrongdoing while in office.

The 71-year-old was finance minister until April under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, his older brother, who has quashed months of protests calling for his resignation over economic mismanagement.

“I entered parliament to run the economy, but since I’m no longer finance minister, there’s no point in staying on as an MP,” Basil told reporters in Colombo.

During the younger Rajapaksa’s tenure, Sri Lanka suffered from acute shortages of food, fuel, medicines and other essential necessities that continue to this day.

The crisis was triggered by dwindling foreign exchange reserves – blamed on unsustainable presidential tax cuts in 2019 – leaving importers unable to pay for goods.

Queues for petrol at service stations have stretched for hours and sometimes even days, while many businesses have shut down due to running out of diesel fuel to power generators during prolonged power outages.

Sri Lanka defaulted on its $51 billion external debt shortly after Basil left the Treasury and is in talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout.

But Basil insisted he was not responsible for the country’s painful decline.

“I didn’t cause the crisis, it was there when I took over Treasury,” he said.

Basil, also a United States citizen, was nominated for the second time in 2021 after his brother Gotabaya scraped constitutional provisions that prevented dual citizens from becoming legislators.

On Thursday he said he was motivated to return to Parliament to clear his name, noting that authorities last week dropped a long-running corruption investigation into him.

The investigation focused on claims that he had amassed wealth and assets that could not be explained by income from his government salary.

Basil’s announcement comes a month after his older brother Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as the island’s prime minister.

Mahinda resigned on May 9 after his supporters attacked peaceful protesters in the capital Colombo, sparking an outbreak of violence that killed at least nine people and set fire to dozens of homes owned by government lawmakers.

A replacement for Basil was not immediately named, but sources within his party said he could soon be replaced by Dhammika Perera, a casino magnate and Rajapaksa loyalist.

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