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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Sri Lanka Ex-president Rajapaksa Refuses to Attend Anti-Graft Body

(Reuters) Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa listens to a speech during his final rally ahead of presidential election in Piliyandala January 5, 2015. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte Thomson ReutersSri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa listens to a speech during his final rally ahead of presidential election in Piliyandala

COLOMBO (Reuters) – Former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa will not appear before an anti-bribery commission investigating allegations that he may have illegally induced a rival to support his campaign during the recent presidential elections.Rajapaksa will ignore a summons to appear on April 24 because the exact nature of the complaint and the person making the allegations have not been disclosed, Rohan Weliwita, Rajapaksa’s media adviser, told Reuters.”He is consulting his legal team on the summons,” Weliwita said. The allegations are the latest in a series of corruption charges made against Rajapaksa by Sri Lanka’s new government, which has ordered an investigation into all the financial deals he made during his decade in power.

Rajapaksa is accused by his rivals of unfairly pressuring opposition leader Tissa Attanayake to back his campaign. After Attanayake supported Rajapaksa’s presidential bid in December, he was appointed the health minister. Opposition politicians and civil society organizations have in the past accused Rajapaksa of recruiting rivals by offering them bribes. Rajapaksa has denied these allegations. More than 50 opposition legislators on Monday protested in parliament and wrote a letter to President Sirisena objecting to Rajapaksa’s summons.

“According to the existing Sri Lankan laws, giving or receiving a minister post is not considered as a bribe,” the legislators said in the letter. “If this is a bribe, none of the presidents could exercise their power vested by the constitution.”

The government has already said Sri Lankan investigators have located more than $2 billion secretly transferred to accounts in Dubai by people close to Rajapaksa during his rule.

Rajapaksa denied allegations his family illegally stashed money overseas in a statement on Monday.

“I would like to categorically state for the information of the public that neither I, my wife, nor my sons, maintain any illegal or secret offshore accounts in any foreign bank,” the statement said. Local media also reported that Rajapaksa’s brother and former defense secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa had been summoned to appear before the anti-graft body on April 23 and 27.

(Reporting by Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal. Editing by Andrew MacAskill and Ralph Boulton)



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