Basil Rohana Rajapaksa, the founder of Sri Lanka’s ruling party Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), has secured yet another political victory after being sworn into the finance portfolio and returning to Parliament. After weeks of campaigning by Basil loyalists in the SLPP that resulted in fractures within the party, the final decision on Basil’s return to Parliament was vested with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and other members of the Rajapaksa family in the government.
Basil had, the previous week, during a family meeting, clearly conveyed to the President and Prime Minister that he would only take oath as an MP after he had been gazetted the relevant portfolio, which is finance, informed sources said.
Basil had remained steadfast in his demand for the finance portfolio with all powers to carry out his governance plan, which is expected to pave the way for his placement as the governing party’s next presidential candidate.
After days of discussions and negotiations, it was finally decided by the family to make way for Basil to assume the portfolio.
However, the Prime Minister’s displeasure at the turn of events was witnessed by the governing party members and was later confirmed after hearing the predicament of State Minister Piyankara Jayaratne.
It is learnt that Jayaratne had made his way to congratulate the Prime Minister on receiving a new portfolio. However, the Premier had claimed that there was no reason to congratulate him after institutions that were vested with him were removed, it is learnt.
The Prime Minister’s mood was shared by his loyalists in government, as they made way for Basil to implement a new economic programme for the country.
The finance portfolio assigned to Basil Rajapaksa has 52 state institutions, boards, and corporations under it while Prime Minister Rajapaksa’s new Economic Policies and Plan Implementation Ministry had only 10 institutions under it, initially.
The 10 institutions originally gazetted under the Premier were the National Planning Department, Department of Census and Statistics, Institute of Policy Studies, Sustainable Development Council, Office of Controller General, Department of Valuation, Sri Lanka Accounting and Auditing Standard Monitoring Board, Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka, Welfare Benefits Board, and the Public Service Mutual Provident Fund.
However, a fresh gazette was issued on Thursday night, returning three more state institutions to the new ministry of Prime Minister Rajapaksa, which had earlier been mistakenly transferred to Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa. They are the Buddha Sasana Fund, Central Cultural Fund, and another Buddhist fund. All in all, three funds were returned to the Prime Minister’s new ministry.
Identified as a man of action, the new Finance Minister Basil did not want to waste any more precious time to start work at his ministry and soon after the gazette was issued last Wednesday night, the swearing-in to his cabinet portfolio and parliamentary seat all took place within less than a one-hour period on Thursday.
After being sworn in as the Finance Minister, Basil made his way to Parliament to be sworn in as an MP at 10 am. Soon after, he made his way to the Finance Ministry to officially assume duties as the Finance Minister.
In Parliament, Basil was allocated seat number nine on the governing party side. His seat is placed between the seats allocated for the President and Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi. The seat allocation resulted in Ministers Rohitha Abeywardena and Ali Sabry having new seats assigned to them in the second row.
Several senior governing party members were not present in Parliament when Finance Minister Rajapaksa was sworn in. Among them were Ministers Wimal Weerawansa, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, and MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe.
After being sworn in as an MP, Basil spent a few minutes in the Chamber before making his way to the governing party lobby of the House. Many legislators had surrounded him to congratulate him on the appointments.
Revealing The Plan
However, after officially assuming duties at the Finance Ministry, Basil addressed the media. He said that while performing the duties of the Finance Minister, he will have to carry out certain unpleasant actions like a father would. He further noted that he as well as the President and Prime Minister have a good knowledge of the issues faced by the people, and everyone must work together to face the challenge.
“This is not an easy task. Let’s accept the challenge. I call on everyone to work together. My priority as well as that of the Ministry and Government is to address the people’s needs. Their priorities are a priority to us. We know these priorities. The President, Prime Minister, and the Government know this. However, I will sometimes have to do unpleasant things like a father. But I believe such acts are carried out with the sincere intention of addressing the people’s needs. Therefore, please support us,” Basil said.
Basil has already got the ball rolling on reforming the government’s economic programme.
It is in this backdrop that The Black Box learnt that during his one-month stay in the U.S., Basil was a busy man.
Apart from informing the President and Prime Minister that the country had no way out of the present economic crisis if it did not make certain important and unpopular decisions, “Basil clearly said there was nothing anyone, including him, could do to salvage the country from its present crisis without being allowed to make some tough decisions without being cowed down by critics, especially within the government”, a Basil loyalist explained.
It is in this scenario that Basil decided to fight for the finance portfolio despite the displeasure and distress it would bring upon one of his elder brothers, Prime Minister Rajapaksa.
The Black Box learnt that in the U.S., Basil held several meetings with U.S. officials based mainly on securing financial support as well as much-needed investments.
Basil had taken this bold step knowing very well that certain partners in the governing alliance would attack such moves and campaign against them.
The Black Box reliably learnt that Basil has taken a firm decision to not allow these protesting camps in the government to prevent the setting up of a new economic order. Governing party members who oppose such moves are to be clearly asked to leave the government.
The clear target of this message seems to be Ministers Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila, who have taken the lead in raising a voice against certain actions of the government.
It is also learnt that while spending his quarantine period at the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo upon his return to the country from the U.S., Basil had drawn a plan on the work to be carried out by him after assuming duties as the Finance Minister.
It is further learnt that he had met with several government ministers and MPs during this period and discussed with them the areas to be addressed in this revolutionary plan. This plan has placed focus on the relief that could be provided to the public while carrying out economic activities.
(By arrangement with themorning.lk)