Landslide electoral victory consolidates Rajapaksa family’s control on Sri Lanka’s politics

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Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, right, greets supporters at his home in the southern town of Tangalle on Friday, after winning the parliamentary elections. (AFP)
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Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, left, and President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa won nearly two-thirds majority of parliamentary seats required to make constitutional changes. (AFP)
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Updated 08 August 2020

Landslide electoral victory consolidates Rajapaksa family’s control on Sri Lanka’s politics

  • Main opposition UNP has been crushed, losing all but one parliamentary seat
  • Sri Lanka had been ruled by powerful executive presidents since 1978

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s ruling party, led by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, has won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections, the country’s Election Commission announced on Friday morning.

Final results of Wednesday’s election showed that the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party (SLPP) won over 59 percent of the vote, which translates into 145 seats in the 225-member parliament. The win consolidates the Rajapaksa family’s control on the country’s politics, with the prime minister’s elder brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, serving as Sri Lanka’s president since November 2019.
The main opposition party in the outgoing parliament, the United National Party (UNP) of former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, won only one seat. The Samagi Jana Balawegaya alliance led by Sajith Premadasa, the son of Ranasinghe Premadasa, a former president who was assassinated in 1993, has now become the main opposition power with 23.9 percent of the vote and 54 parliamentary seats.
“The resounding victory has strengthened the SLPP and expressed people’s confidence,” President Rajapaksa said in a statement issued on Friday.
The UNP has accepted the defeat, with Secretary-General Akila Viraj Kariywasam saying, “We take responsibility for our failures and shortcomings.”
The prime minister will be sworn in on Sunday, while the new parliament is scheduled to meet for its first session on Aug. 20.


• Voters attribute PM Mahinda Rajapaksa’s win to his president brother’s successful COVID-19 response.

• The UNP has accepted the defeat. ‘We take responsibility for our failures and shortcomings,’ party’s secretary-general says.

• The prime minister will be sworn in on Sunday, while the new parliament is scheduled to meet for its first session on Aug. 20.

On Friday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated PM Rajapaksa on the victory, while the US Embassy in Colombo praised Sri Lanka for conducting the elections in a peaceful and orderly manner despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.
The polls were held amid tight security and measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“We are proud that that we were able to conduct the polls successfully without any problems,” Deputy Commissioner of Elections S. Acchuttan told Arab News on Friday.
Sri Lanka is one of the few countries to hold an election despite the pandemic, due to which the vote originally scheduled for April had already been postponed twice.
Sri Lankans attributed Rajapaksa’s win to his brother’s successful response to the pandemic. The country of 21 million has recorded 2,839 COVID-19 cases and only 11 related deaths
“Successful management of COVID-19 at a world-class level increased people’s confidence in the regime,” Mohammed Rizqi, a chartered accountant, told Arab News.

Trump paid $750 in US income taxes in 2016, 2017: NY Times

Updated 28 September 2020

Trump paid $750 in US income taxes in 2016, 2017: NY Times

  • In 2017, Trump paid $145,400 in taxes in India and $156,824 in the Philippines
  • Trump relied on business tax credits to reduce his tax obligations in the US, says report

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes the year he ran for president and in his first year in the White House, according to a report Sunday in The New York Times.
Trump, who has fiercely guarded his tax filings and is the only president in modern times not to make them public, paid no federal income taxes in 10 of the past 15 years.
The details of the tax filings complicate Trump’s description of himself as a shrewd and patriotic businessman, revealing instead a series of financial losses and income from abroad that could come into conflict with his responsibilities as president. The president’s financial disclosures indicated he earned at least $434.9 million in 2018, but the tax filings reported a $47.4 million loss.
The disclosure, which the Times said comes from tax return data it obtained extending over two decades, comes at a pivotal moment ahead of the first presidential debate Tuesday and weeks before a divisive election against Democrat Joe Biden.
Speaking at a news conference Sunday at the White House, Trump dismissed the report as “fake news” and maintained he has paid taxes, though he gave no specifics. He also vowed that information about his taxes “will all be revealed,” but he offered no timeline for the disclosure and made similar promises during the 2016 campaign on which he never followed through.
In fact, the president has fielded court challenges against those seeking access to his returns, including the US House, which is suing for access to Trump’s tax returns as part of congressional oversight.
During his first two years as president, Trump received $73 million from foreign operations, which in addition to his golf properties in Scotland and Ireland included $3 million from the Philippines, $2.3 million from India and $1 million from Turkey. The president in 2017 paid $145,400 in taxes in India and $156,824 in the Philippines, compared to just $750 in US income taxes.
Trump found multiple ways to reduce his tax bills. He has taken tax deductions on personal expenses such as housing, aircraft and $70,000 to style his hair while he filmed “The Apprentice.” Losses in the property businesses solely owned and managed by Trump appear to have offset income from his stake in “The Apprentice” and other entities with multiple owners.
During the first two years of his presidency, Trump relied on business tax credits to reduce his tax obligations. The Times said $9.7 million worth of business investment credits that were submitted after Trump requested an extension to file his taxes allowed him to reduce his income and pay just $750 each in 2016 and 2017.
Income tax payments help finance the military and domestic programs.
Trump, starting in 2010, claimed and received an income tax refund that totaled $72.9 million, which the Times said was at the core of an ongoing audit by the IRS.
Rep. Richard Neal, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee who has tried unsuccessfully to obtain Trump’s tax records, said the Times report makes it even more essential for his committee to get the documents.
“It appears that the President has gamed the tax code to his advantage and used legal fights to delay or avoid paying what he owes,” Neal wrote in a statement. “Now, Donald Trump is the boss of the agency he considers an adversary. It is essential that the IRS’s presidential audit program remain free of interference.”
A lawyer for the Trump Organization, Alan Garten, and a spokesperson for the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press on the report.
Garten told the Times that “most, if not all, of the facts appear to be inaccurate.”
He said in a statement to the news organization that the president “has paid tens of millions of dollars in personal taxes to the federal government, including paying millions in personal taxes since announcing his candidacy in 2015.”
The New York Times said it declined to provide Garten with the tax filings in order to protect its sources.
During his first general election debate against Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, Clinton said that perhaps Trump wasn’t releasing his tax returns because he had paid nothing in federal taxes.
Trump interrupted her to say, “That makes me smart.”