Former strongman minister Basil Rajapaksa’s political hopes have been shattered following the Supreme Court confirming the expulsion of his star candidate Geetha Kumarasinghe from Parliament, party sources said yesterday.
Basil Rajapaksa who launched the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) after breaking away from the old-established Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) was planning a comeback if Thursday’s court decision went in favour of Kumarasinghe. Party sources said Basil Rajapaksa’s hopes had been raised on May 15 when a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court in a majority decision granted Kumarasinghe more time to remain in parliament. The interim order had raised hopes of SLPP leader Basil Rajapaksa.
The spirit of the Constitution dictates that the fate of any member of parliament should be decided within two months. However, in delivering their judgement on Thursday, a five-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice Priyasath Dep ruled against Kumarasinghe and also shattered the hopes of two Rajapaksa siblings, Basil and Gotabhaya.
The highest court upheld a decision of the Court of Appeal which unanimously held that Kumarasinghe, a star figure in the break away SLFP group, was never qualified to be a candidate.
Kumarasinghe’s expulsion was based on provisions of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution which bars nationals who also hold citizenship of another country from holding elected office.
‘Never give up US citizenship’
Basil Rajapaksa told the BBC recently that he will never give up his US citizenship and claimed that voters of the Gampaha district had supported him with some 425,000 preferential votes despite his US nationality.
“I am not ready to give up my US citizenship. My children and family are there (in the United States),” Basil Rajapaksa said. “I entered politics with US citizenship.”
He said he could not speak about his youngest brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the former Defence Secretary, who is also attempting to enter politics while retaining both Sri Lankan and US nationalities.
It is ironic that a party built on “patriotism” is led by those who have already pledged allegiance to the United States of America.
The two Rajapaksa siblings are known to have fallen out recently with Gotabhaya keeping away from Basil’s SLPP and having his own campaign to drum up support from among ultra nationalist groups.
In a blow to Gotabhaya’s campaign, Basil announced in Jaffna while launching his SLPP in the peninsula last month that the military under their elder brother Mahinda had committed crimes that should be independently investigated. He said they were not “war crimes” but nevertheless crimes committed during and even after the end of the war in May 2009. Basil’s remarks are known to have caused anger among the supporters of Gotabhaya who have maintained no such thing happened and also resist any type of investigation into the military’s conduct.
Basil’s camp is also unhappy with the recent statement of Gotabhaya-loyalist, retired Army Major General Kamal Gunaratne, who called for the execution of anyone supporting constitutional reforms.
Gunaratne’s endorsement of the brutal tactics of Deshapremi Janatha Viyaparaya (DJV) has caused unease in Basil’s camp because some of their members were also at the receiving end of the DJV terror between 1987 and 1990.
The retired military officer Gunaratne has become a liability for Gotabhaya too and was missing from the more recent meetings of the group which is also facing ideological differences between two factions within the camp.
Geetha Kumarasinghe’s judgement, which firmly shuts the door for the return to Parliament for both Basil and Gotabhaya, has also led to a scramble among SLPP members to get a new leader as their General Secretary G.L. Peiris is not considered a strong contender.