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Outsider seeks to break dynastic hold on Sri Lankan politics

#Outsider #seeks #break #dynastic #hold #Sri #Lankan #politics

Former journalist and human rights activist Dullas Alahapperuma is an unlikely contender for the post of Sri Lankan leader, but he is the incumbent president’s main challenger in a parliamentary vote on Wednesday.

The 63-year-old former media minister enlisted the support of the main political opposition on Tuesday after pledging to unite a fractured, crisis-hit nation following last week’s resignation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

“It is a crime not to do anything while the country is rapidly declining,” Alahapperuma told AFP while Rajapaksa was still in office.

“We have to get the country out of this mess. Otherwise we won’t have a country anytime soon.”

Sri Lankan politics was dominated for decades by a series of family dynasties, but Alahapperuma’s family never had these connections.

His parents were both teachers and he began his career as a reporter for Lakmina, a local newspaper in Colombo.

He turned to left-wing activism and published his own political tabloid, the Dullas News.

That got him into a provincial council in 1993, and a year later he became a member of parliament.

At the time, he worked closely with Mahinda Rajapaksa, who campaigned against violations by the government of then President Ranasinghe Premadasa.

Rajapaksa and his family have dominated Sri Lankan politics for years – the recently ousted president is his younger brother – and several members of the clan have themselves been accused of violating rights in the country’s fight against a Tamil rebellion.

To illustrate the dynastic nature of Sri Lankan politics, it was Premadasa’s son Sajith, now opposition leader in Parliament, who nominated Alahapperuma for the presidency on Tuesday.

– “Fraudulent Political Culture” –

Alahapperuma left politics in 2001 to pursue further education at the University of Iowa, but reentered Parliament in 2005 when his ally Mahinda became president.

Most recently, he held three different positions in the Gotabaya cabinet.

On his first day as Secretary of Energy, there was a nationwide blackout.

As media minister, he maintained close contact with journalists and was considered an unobtrusive cabinet spokesman – unlike some of his predecessors.

As public anger mounted against the Rajapaksa clan over the country’s deepening economic crisis, Alahapperuma publicly called on the president to form a unity government earlier this year.

He accused the Rajapaksa government of unleashing attacks on dissident journalists and activists and admitted he was powerless to stem the repression.

He was considered an outspoken critic in Cabinet, a record that may have helped him secure opposition support for his presidential bid.

A father of two sons aged 27 and 26, Alahapperuma is married to a popular film actress, Pradeepa Dharmadasa.

If he wins on Wednesday, he has promised to make opposition leader Premadasa his prime minister in what he calls the country’s first “consensual government”.

The former cabinet minister said he wanted to “end the fraudulent political culture that has clouded our nation for ages,” he tweeted on Saturday.

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#Outsider #seeks #break #dynastic #hold #Sri #Lankan #politics

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