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Fallen dynasty backs Sri Lankan leader as creditors seek answers – Times of India


after running away Sri Lanka Former leader who spent about two months in self-imposed exile Gotabaya Rajapaksa Returned this month to a newly painted and heavily guarded colonial bungalow in one of the island’s hippest neighbourhoods.
Demonstrators ousted Rajapaksa from the presidency in July, climaxing months of protests after record-high inflation and depleted foreign exchange reserves bankrupted the country of 22 million people. A lot has changed since then.
The streets are mostly quiet now. The International Monetary Fund agreed to a $3 billion loan earlier this month. The Sri Lankan government is set to meet with external creditors this Friday.And the new president, Ranil Wickremesinghepledged to stabilize the central bank’s coffers.
However, the road remains arduous in Sri Lanka, where prices have recently risen by 70% and shortages of basic goods persist. Protests slowed after Rajapaksa fled to Southeast Asia, but many Sri Lankans still see Wickremesinghe as a close ally of their family, restoring peace to a country heralded decades ago as the region’s economic model. I am questioning whether it is possible.
Sri Lankan protesters feel Wickremesinghe’s widespread plot to put his family back in power, even calling him “Ranil Rajapaksa” during demonstrations. The dynasty has spent recent weeks trying to restore its reputation by promoting its younger clansmen, and Mahinda Rajapaksa — Gotabaya’s brother and former president for his decade — still holds the majority in Sri Lanka. It has a lot of support among Sinhalese.
Wickremsinghe, 73, is in the twilight of his career and is having trouble connecting with voters.
“Mr Ranil is clearly a partner of Rajapakshas,” said Dayan Jayathilekha, a former Sri Lankan diplomat and political analyst. “He is completely dependent on the ruling party.”
A spokeswoman for Gotabaya Rajapaksa did not respond to a request for comment. A member of his party, Sri Lanka’s Podjana Pelamna, said in an interview that Wickremesinghe was elected president by parliament because of his extensive record in government and his strength in managing the economy.
“As the ruling party, we have not been able to come up with a suitable solution,” said DB Herath of the ruling SLPP, whom Ranil appointed as livestock minister this month. “We have different policy stances, but we work together to find solutions to people’s problems.”
Gotabaya’s return to Sri Lanka shows Rajapaksas’ resilience despite months of unrest. The Rajapaksus managed to seize political power after much of the population was unable to buy fuel or find food. demonstrators set fire to the family’s ancestral home.
Whether Wickremesinghe’s alliance with Rajapaksa’s party will last until the next presidential election in 2024 is an open question. Foreign exchange reserves continue to fall, he was below $1.8 billion in August, and IMF funds are unlikely to arrive for months. Bondholders are outraged over outstanding debt. And the lack of public support for Wickremesinghe could make it harder to pass revenue-boosting measures that creditors might demand.
In recent weeks, Wickremesinghe’s administration has introduced rules allowing the military and police to wipe out powers to arrest protesters. Or it could defy future crackdowns.
“Protests will erupt again, no doubt,” said Jayadeva Ouyangoda, emeritus professor of political science at the University of Colombo. “We expect the situation to increase in tension in the coming months.”
Wickremesinghe sees things differently. At one point he compared himself to Winston Churchill navigating Britain during World War II.
“In 1939 there were only four members supporting Churchill,” he recently told reporters. “How did he become prime minister? Because of the crisis. I did the same.”
The child of a wealthy family with an uncle who was president of Sri Lanka for over a decade, Wickremesinghe is in many ways the ultimate Sri Lankan insider. His political career extends to the 1970s when he won his first seat in parliament. Since then, he has held offices throughout the government, including being Prime Minister six times, but not his full term.
Despite his deep ties to the country’s elite, Wickremesinghe’s rise to the most powerful position in Sri Lanka was unthinkable just a few years ago. The center-right United National Party, of which he has been the party leader for most of his 30 years, has been routed in the 2020 local elections.
Wickremesinghe’s fortunes changed dramatically when Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed him prime minister in May. After a few weeks, the country reached a breaking point. Protesters took over the presidential palace and ousted Rajapaksa from office. In the ensuing brawl, the collapsed Sri Lankan parliament elected Wickramasinghe as his replacement.
During the summer, Wickremesinghe’s house burned down as the protests culminated. After his inauguration, he distanced himself from the Rajapaksas. “Why am I an old friend of Rajapaksas?” he told reporters at a Buddhist temple in Colombo in his July. “I have been against them all along.”
But these assurances have done little to convince many Sri Lankans that the new government is not an agent of the Rajapaksa. They dismantled camps, beat demonstrators with sticks and destroyed tents.
With these scenes unfolding, Gotabaya Rajapaksa regrouped in Singapore and Bangkok. September evening. On Thursday, a procession of black cars with tinted windows escorted him from Sri Lanka’s airport to his home in the affluent neighborhood of Cinnamon Gardens. even offered him her seat in the
Wickremesinghe, meanwhile, has battled public perceptions that he is entrenched in a corrupt elite, although an August poll found that more than a third of Sri Lankans surveyed felt that the current economic crisis was unacceptable. I found that I trusted him to solve the problem.
In 2015, his term as prime minister was marred by an insider trading scam involving the country’s central bank. he denies his involvement.
“His strength was that he was around,” said former diplomat Jayathilekha. “This isn’t his first rodeo. But he’s fallen off the bucking bronco every time he’s been near a rodeo. So it’s not a very good track record either.”





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