In a lengthy interview with The Hindu where he poured his heart out on certain issues, Rajapaksa is not specific as to who of the three brothers (Chamal, Basil and Gotabaya) he was referring to as being a likely presidential contender.
Confirming that he would lead the SLPP election campaign in 2019, the former President ruled out the possibility of his son contesting the Presidential Election due to the 19th Amendment.
“My son [Namal Rajapaksa] can’t contest this time around since the minimum age limit of a contestant has been raised to 35 years, instead of the earlier 30, so he can’t contest in 2019. My brother is certainly a contender, but the party and the coalition will have to decide who the people want”, he said when asked whether the next presidential candidate will be a member from the Rajapaksa family or someone else.
When asked who would lead the SLPP in the 2019 election, Rajapaksa said he would lead the Party.
“There is a view that despite the Amendment I could contest the Election and then fight it out in Court. But, I still have to decide whether to take that risk. Another option is to announce a candidate acceptable to all”, he noted.
Meanwhile, he said there was a misunderstanding between India and his political party just before and after the 2015 Elections but these have been ironed out.
“Now of course, I think it is about time to move on. However, no one should meddle in another country’s electoral process. It is an internal matter and the people should decide whom to bring to power. I think now everyone has understood what went wrong at that time. We need to forget the past. This is the time to move forward”, he said.
Commenting on the allegations that he had accepted campaign funds from Chinese companies, Rajapaksa said China did not fund him.
“This is what people talk about because this government has nothing else to accuse us of. When they came to power, they were looking for my $18 billion, but they are still looking for it (laughs)… despite the help of the US and other countries. They haven’t even found a dollar,” he said.
He also said Sri Lanka could have settled the loans his government obtained but the Sirisena government has messed things up.
Rajapaksa’s host Dr. Subramanian Swami in a controversial tweet has referred to him (Mahinda) as both former and future President of Sri Lanka.
“Today Fmr President of Sri Lanka and probably the next President is arriving in New Delhi at the invitation of Virat Hindustan Sangam(http://www.vhsindia.org ). He will address a public meeting (admission by invitation ) on 12th on “Indo-Sri Lanka Relations : The Way Forward”
Meanwhile, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday.