Saturday 30th Sep 2023
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Mahinda Rajapaksa

Maldivian Parliament Speaker Nasheed to facilitate safe haven for Mahinda in the Maldives

The Maldives Journal has learned that the speaker of the Maldivian Parliament, President Mohamed Nasheed is presently brokering safe passage for beleaguered former Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, and his family.
Nasheed is currently in Sri Lanka, meeting heads of political parties. Nasheed went to Sri Lanka last week, and volunteered to coordinate international relief efforts for Sri Lanka, despite lacking any experience in that field. In the last few days, Nasheed has held several meetings with high-level political figures and lobbied to grant the Rajapaksa family a safe passage to the Maldives.

Mahinda called Nasheed for assistance

A senior Maldivian government official reported to TMJ that after he had resigned, Mahinda Rajapaksa had called Nasheed. In this call, Rajapaksa requested Nasheed to make arrangements so that his family can stay in the Maldives until the situation in Sri Lanka calms down.
Mahinda initially had the plan to settle his family in a property of Maldivian tourism tycoon, Champa Muhammad Moosa (Uhchu). Moosa is known to have close ties with the Rajapaksas.
Nasheed had shot down the idea, citing that Moosa was an untrustworthy figure. “Uhchu is not to be trusted,” he said.
As an alternative, Nasheed had proposed that Rajapaksas purchase a private residence in Soneva Fushi, a property owned by India’s Sonu Shivdasani. Sonu is a close associate of Nasheed.
Shivdasani has close ties to India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He is suspected to have bank rolled MDP during the tenure of former President Abdullah Yameen.

Shivdasani okays villa purchase

The source also reported that Sonu Shivdasani had agreed to sell a private villa to the Rajapaksa family – at a cool US$ 12 million. An additional villa, priced at US$ 3 million, is also included in the deal, and will be used as housing for the family’s staff and security.
TMJ has been able to confirm that the family plans to purchase a six-room villa, measuring 24,000 square feet. It can comfortably house 12 adults and six children. A private pool, gym, sauna, and other facilities are available in the villa as well.

Ulterior motives behind international aid coordination

Speaker Nasheed left for Sri Lanka last week. The Prime Minister’s Office reported that Nasheed had generously offered to assist Sri Lanka in securing relief from foreign nations. Wickremesinghe had accepted the offer.
Since then, Nasheed has held several high-level meetings, including one with former Minister of Youth and Sports, Namal Rajapaksa, the son of Mahinda, as well as opposition leader Sajith Premadasa.
While his original pledge was to coordinate international relief efforts, this has taken backstage to the lobbying efforts he is undertaking. In each meeting, Nasheed had constantly and consistently, lobbied for safe passage for Rajapaksa and his family.
In his meeting with Premadasa, Nasheed had talked of creating peace and political stability. In these meetings, he had urged all to refrain from revenge.
Sri Lankan courts have seized Rajapaksa’s passport and a travel ban is on the former Prime Minister.
One of Nasheed’s tasks in the country, the source said, was to coordinate between various stakeholders so that the Rajapaksas can leave the country. The source added that Mahinda had agreed to support and fund Nasheed’s political activities, in exchange for safe passage.

Zero track record in securing aid

The news that Nasheed was seeking relief for Sri Lanka was met with public criticism, as he has zero track record in securing aid. During his administration, he had famously failed to bring in ‘millions’, in spite of boasting that he could do so. On top of that, Nasheed’s administration had sold off state assets on the cheap to foreign parties.
While campaigning for office in 2008, Nasheed had pledged to bring in US$ 300 million as foreign aid in the first three months of his presidency. His term ended prematurely in 2012 after he resigned – the promised aid is yet to come.
Nasheed’s short term in office was marked by economic difficulties, with a currency that was losing its value quickly. The dollar was pegged at 15.42 during his tenure.
His party, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is back on the presidency. This administration has continued their heavy reliance on foreign aid as well. Each year, Ministry of Finance pencils in billions as receivables in foreign aid. This is then used as basis for major infrastructure projects and recurrent expenses.
Each year the administration fails to bring in even a quarter of the amount. For the running year, they had set a target of MVR 2.9 billion (US$ 188.01 million). So far, not even three percent has been received.
With such a spotty track record, what guarantee is there that Nasheed could successfully assist Sri Lanka navigate their financial crisis?

Ties between Rajapaksas and MDP

MDP and Rajapaksa family always has had close ties. MDP had their origins in Sri Lanka in 2003. Then the Maldivian constitution did not allow for political parties. This did not halt Nasheed and his allies’ ambitions – they started their activities based from Sri Lanka.
Mahinda became Prime Minister for the first time in 2004. Nasheed and MDP continued their work under the protection of Rajapaksa. Rajapaksa is also rumored to have funded Nasheed in the 2008 Presidential elections.
Several high-level figures of MDP call Sri Lanka their second home. President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s father-in-law Sikka Ahmed Ismail Manik resides in Sri Lanka for the most part, with several businesses and residences to his name. Present Health Minister Ahmed Naseem also has a property in the country. Naseem’s nephew is currently the Ambassador of Maldives to Sri Lanka.
When former President Ibrahim Nasir ended his term in office, those who were closely aligned with Nasir, set up base in Sri Lanka. This includes, Moomina Haleem, and President Solih’s father-in-law, Sikka Ahmed Ismail Manik.

SLPP & MDP -mirrored style of rule

Mahinda Rajapaksa’s party Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and Nasheed’s MDP are bastions of nepotism, cronyism, and unchecked corruption.

Mahinda’s brother Gotabaya is President. Chamal Rajapaksa, another brother, headed the Ministry of Irrigation. Basil Rajapaksa served as Finance Minister. His son Namal was serving as Minister of Youth and Sports. They all resigned their portfolios in April 2022, in light of protests.

MDP has mirrored this effectively. Nasheed serves as Speaker, while Nasheed’s cousin Eva serves as his Deputy. President Solih’s cabinet and senior government positions are filled by his and Nasheed’s close family and associates.

Sri Lankans are currently in the midst of unprecedented economic turmoil. The country is effectively bankrupt, with the majority of the population struggling to make basic needs met. One of the key demands from the protests is the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Go Gota Go, is the unwavering and unfazed demand. An unrepentant Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family is leaving the country for the Maldives, is a step backward for citizens asking for the bare minimum of accountability.