London daily blasts Rajapaksa for grabbing all power

By S Venkat Narayan Our Special Correspondent

 NEW DELHI, November 5: A prominent London newspaper has blasted Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and two of his brothers Gotabhaya and Basil for trying to grab all power in the island nation.

In a stinging article reproduced in the widely-circulated Indian Express today, The Financial Times of London said the Rajapaksa government had "steadfastly refused a full investigation into claims of war crimes, despite a resolution passed in March by the UN Human Rights Council urging it to do so."

"Indeed, far from moving to placate such demands, many observers say Mr Rajapaksa is moving in the other direction, with fresh threats to judicial independence and recent moves to centralise yet more power in the hands of his family, notably his brothers Gotabhaya and Basil, who control the army and economic development, respectively."

The highly-regarded newspaper quoted one unidentified western fund manager as saying: "Sri Lanka has lots of potential, but only if the megalomaniac tendencies of the President and his brothers can be brought under control."

One western diplomat based in Colombo told the newspaper: "Things are definitely getting worse." He cited worries over threats to journalists, opposition politicians and civil society figures, alongside a continuing spate of abductions of regime critics and Tamil civilians. Many Sri Lankans say these are orchestrated by the military, the daily wrote.

It went on: "Allegations of cronyism and graft increasingly worry investors already alarmed by the resignation of the country’s top financial regulator in August, seemingly pressured by the administration to forestall investigations into stock price manipulation."

According to the newspaper, concerns in western capitals have focused on Sri Lanka’s new ports, which some defence analysts think could form part of a series of military bases and other Chinese-backed projects around the Indian Ocean known as the "string of pearls."

The daily wrote: "Such developments worry India too, which frets about any Chinese presence close to its borders and about domestic political pressure from its 61 million Tamil citizens seeking action to help their fellow Tamils to the south."

However, Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Cabral is unfazed. He told the newspaper: "We are not worried about it (not being able to repay loans) at all. In different periods in the history of the world, funding for investments has come from many different countries...perhaps now it is just China’s turn?"

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