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Rediff.com  » News » 'Rajapaksa will try everything to hold on to power'

'Rajapaksa will try everything to hold on to power'

By ARCHANA MASIH
Last updated on: July 13, 2022 12:34 IST
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'The fact that he hasn't resigned so far shows that he is going to do everything to hold onto power.'

IMAGE: Demonstrators protest on top of a police tear gas truck after they entered the presidential secretariat premises in Colombo, July 9, 2022, after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled his home. Photograph: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters

"The Rajapaksas are a very powerful political family that has weathered several storms. I don't think they are going to be going away anytime soon," Bhavani Fonseka, the well-known Sri Lankan activist and constitutional lawyer, tells Rediff.com's Archana Masih in the second of a three-part interview.

 

In our last conversation, you had said that you wouldn't write off the Rajapaksa family entirely despite them being so unpopular.
Has the people's takeover of the President's House since July 12, compelled you to change your mind?

No, the Rajapaksas are very much around. The president still hasn't resigned. He thinks he can continue to hold onto power.

Things are very uncertain until he resigns.

Even in May when public anger forced them to go into hiding, they were seen in parliament a week later.

They are a very powerful political family that has weathered several storms. I don't think they are going to be going away anytime soon.

There are allegations of corruption have to investigated. But the most immediate is ensuring the president steps down.

Do you think he will resign?

If he listens to the demands of the people, he should resign. But the fact that he hasn't resigned so far shows that he is going to do everything to hold onto power.

We are facing a situation where an individual is refusing to go home, regardless of the months-long demand. There is a real worry that an individual who enjoys a very powerful office may resort to anything to hang on to power.

IMAGE: People wait to visit the president's house, July 10, 2022. Photograph: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters

You were there at the July 9 protest. Can you describe to me what you saw what you felt?

The numbers that showed up was remarkable. I was speechless to see all the people walking into this protest site. The protest was largely peaceful. Those who went into the residence and office were curious to see what it was like from the inside, but didn't destroy property.

It was unfortunate that it turned violent later on and will raise concerns among peaceful protesters about whether they want to be associated with this kind of protest.

The main thing is the sheer numbers that turned up despite the economic crisis and the challenges.

Will the absence of the Rajapaksas encourage other governments like India's to help Sri Lanka more than it has done in the past?

I think the Indian government will look at who they can engage and work with.

The Rajapaksas have been engaging with the Indian government in the past. Any new government that will be formed will have to work with India.

India is our closest neighbour. India has given us much assistance during this crisis. Whoever takes over is very aware that India is a key international actor and has been a partner in supporting us throughout this crisis.

It is a given that Sri Lanka will have to work with India, but also other countries. We are in such a dire situation where one has to look to all actors, not just one country.

Do you feel the IMF will be inclined to provide more help now that the Rajapaksas seem to be out of the way?

Let's see if the Rajapaksas actually leave. The IMF was in Sri Lanka a couple of days ago. They are in continued negotiations, though no agreement has been reached. They also need to know who they are going to be engaging with.

Therefore, political stability will play a critical role in the existing and future discussions for international assistance.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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ARCHANA MASIH / Rediff.com
 
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