Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa has promised to appoint a new prime minister, empower the parliament and abolish the all-powerful executive presidential system to stabilise the island nation engulfed in political crisis and violence triggered by its worst economic crises.
In a televised address, he condemned attacks on peaceful protesters by mobs who came to support his brother and former prime minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who resigned on Monday. Security forces have been ordered to shoot those deemed to be participating in the violence, as sporadic acts of arson and vandalism continued despite a strict nationwide curfew that began Monday evening.
As authorities lifted the curfew for a few hours on Thursday, News18 caught up with Namal Rajapaksa, former cabinet minister and son of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Condemning the violence after his father’s resignation, Namal Rajapaksa said both pro-and anti-government protesters were to blame for the chaos. Lamenting the fact that Sri Lanka does not have a new PM or government even 48 hours after his father’s resignation as demanded by protesters, Namal questioned the island’s fate if the President were to resign too.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in his speech said a new government and cabinet will be in place in a week. What is your view?
I was already of the view that someone has to be confirmed before the PM resigns because there will be a vacuum. Unfortunately, my father resigned. As expected, none of the parties from the opposition could commit as to how they would form a government. My personal opinion is to have an independent government.
There is an allegation that pro-government people were responsible for the violence. What would be your reaction to that?
Provocation was not just from pro-government, but from anti-government protesters too. Violence cannot be accepted in any form. Protests were driven by certain politically motivated organisations, and later on it went out of control.
We believe that law and order has to be restored and all political parties should calm their followers down. This whole violence was pre-planned and was part of propaganda by certain political parties from the looks of it. Look at how they attacked the homes of parliamentarians.
Your ancestral home was attacked too…
It’s not new that our house was attacked. It’s sad that nothing has changed even after 30-40 years.
The leader of the opposition claims your family had planned the Monday violence. Your response to that?
It started with protesters attacking the President’s residence. Police took six hours to control the situation. It started from there. It went to attacking homes of lawmakers. The violence began even before protests at Galle Face started. You cannot blame just one side.
The other allegation is that your family members, including your father, are reportedly fleeing the country…
They (anti-government propagandists) purposely created that story. They started running around the airports. This is not just to kill people or destroy property but to kill Sri Lanka economically. From our family’s side, I make sure that we have no reason to go out of the country. We have always stood by our people.
What according to you is the way forward for Sri Lanka’s revival?
The President has to take a tough stand and form a strong government and deliver what we have promised to people, and bring economic and political stability. First, they wanted the cabinet to be dissolved and once the new cabinet was formed, they wanted the prime minister to resign. Now, he has resigned. After two days, we are here, talking without being able to find a new PM or form a government.
What will happen if the President resigns tomorrow? We don’t have a PM, and we won’t have a President. Then where are we heading as a nation? Slogans are good but implementation is hard. It’s easy to carry out a revolution, it’s easy to carry out a protest or disruption, but rebuilding, development, forward thinking, and governing are the toughest things to do.
I think the President has to govern the country for now, and I’m sure people will understand that we are going through a hard time and if the President makes the right choices and if the caretaker government or interim government will be formed for the next six months to one year… I think we all should get together and help them perform.
Will Sri Lanka require more funds from India? Has there been any communique in that regard?
We need a lot of support from our friendly countries. India has been the biggest supporter during the last couple of months and also historically. We believe that a lot of investments from all over the world that we had lined up during PM Mahinda Rajapaksa’s time are towards finalisation, and going into MoUs for construction, especially from India and few other countries.
We need to expedite those projects, find a new PM and government to bring in these investments. I’m sure a lot of Indian investors have come forward to invest in Sri Lanka. Credit lines and grants and loans are all good but for the long-term, we need investments. It is the right time to have a stable government and invite Indian investors to take a lead role in that.