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Court bars ex-PM Mahinda, brother from leaving Sri Lanka

Race picks up for Gotabaya’s successor

Court bars ex-PM Mahinda, brother from leaving Sri Lanka

Interim President Ranil Wickremesinghe (R) greets Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya during the oath-taking ceremony in Colombo, Sri Lanka. AP/PTI



Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, JULY 15

Sri Lanka will kick off the process to elect its next President on Saturday after Gotabaya Rajapaksa sent in his resignation from Singapore while Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court barred two of his brothers — former PM Mahinda and former Finance Minister Basil — from leaving the country till July 28.

The Contenders

Ranil Wickremesinghe: Interim President has allies across party lines. Will be an acceptable face during talks with IMF for a bailout

Sajith Premadasa: Youngest of the probables and Leader of Opposition. Had revolted against Ranil and is son of slain President Ranasinghe Premadasa

Sarath Fonseka: Ex-army chief who crushed LTTE militancy. At odds with the Rajapaksas but has the support of some MPs

Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena: Speaker of Parliament, who is aiming to emerge as consensus candidate

Dullas Alahapperuma: Has support from some factions of Rajapaksa’s party and is tipped as a dark horse

There are five contenders in the fray and they will have to win the support of both lawmakers and protesters on the streets to bring a modicum of stability in the island nation.

Leading the race is PM Ranil Wickremesinghe, who had promised to quit, but is now the interim president. He imposed a state of emergency across Sri Lanka soon after protesters occupied his office and briefly took control of the national state broadcaster.

The Sri Lankan Parliament will meet on Saturday to start the process. It will call for nominations on July 19 and a vote will take place on July 20. The new president could hold office for the two years that were left of Gotabaya’s term before a fresh election in 2024. The process would wrap up in seven days, said Speaker of Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, who is also a contender for the post of President. While Gotabaya is now in Singapore, he had originally made for the Maldives, where protesters hit the streets against his arrival. In a deal brokered by top Maldives leadership, Gotabaya has based himself temporarily in Singapore.

But his two brothers have not been as lucky. Mahinda is reportedly holed up in a naval base after protesters in May stormed and set fire to his residences while Basil made an attempt to leave the country on Tuesday. The bid was foiled by the immigration staff who made themselves unavailable, leaving none to stamp his passport.

The court restrained both the brothers from leaving the country after Transparency International filed a petition claiming that they were responsible for Sri Lanka’s foreign debt and the current economic crisis. The petition also named former Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal and former Treasury Secretary SR Attygalle.

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