Who is Dullas Alahapperuma?

While Wickremesinghe is a familiar figure in India and around the world – beginning in 1993, he was prime minister on five occasions before becoming acting president under the provisions of Sri Lanka’s constitution after Gotabaya fled the country and resigned – Alahabiruma is relatively less well known.

Alahapperuma is a major Rajapaksa family loyalist turned dissident in Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), a political party of Rajapaksas.

Dullas Alahapperuma: A Journalist Who Becomes Politician

In 1994, the 63-year-old Alahapperuma left a career in Sinhalese journalism to become a full-time politician in the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), which was led by former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.

He built his political base in Matara in southern Sri Lanka, a seat that he sent to Parliament for the first time in 1994 and thereafter – other than the only elections in 2001, which Alahabiruma did not contest.

He remained politically close to the Rajapaksa family, and was able to retain the Matara seat even in the 2015 parliamentary elections despite the split in the SLF and the defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa in both the presidential and parliamentary elections.

Alahabiruma remained in the Mahinda faction of the Sudan Liberation Front, which eventually morphed into the Sierra Leone People’s Party. Other than being a loyal follower of the Rajapaksa, Alahabrumah was not seen as a groundbreaking subject before this week.

In the middle of a row between India and Sri Lanka

Less than a year ago, Alahapperuma was at the center of a tripartite dispute between his government (then led by the Rajapaksa brothers as president and prime minister) and India and China over the award of a renewable energy project on three islands off Jaffna – Neduntheevu (Delft), Nainativu and Analativu – near the coast of Tamil Nadu.

Alahapperuma was the Minister of Energy and Energy in January 2021, when Sri Lanka awarded the US$12 million project to China’s Sinosar-Etechwin in a joint venture with the state-owned Ceylon Electricity Board as part of the Sri Lankan government’s electricity supply reliability improvement project.

New Delhi learned of this project just three days before Sri Lanka unilaterally withdrew from another agreement to jointly develop the Eastern Container Terminal with India and Japan. Both developments together set back the relations between India and Sri Lanka at the time.

After protests from India over security concerns – the largest of the three islands, Delft, barely 45 kilometers from the coast of Tamil Nadu – Colombo kept the contract on hold because it considered an offer from India for a similar project, but with a grant. .

Ultimately, the project on the islands was awarded to India in March of this year. Since last October, Sri Lanka has also signed agreements with private player Adani and PSU NTPC Ltd.

From government spokesperson to Sierra Leone People’s Party rebel

In a cabinet reshuffle in August last year, in which then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa began his first serious efforts to seek financial assistance and appointed Basil Rajapaksa as Finance Minister, Alahaperuma was transferred from the Ministry of Energy and appointed Minister of Mass Information. In this position, he served as government spokesperson until March 2022, when he resigned along with all other government ministers.

This was the time when the anti-Rajapaksa protests were accelerating. Getting the cabinet to resign was a desperate gamble by Gotabaya to placate the protesters, but it didn’t work. The government appeared to have lost a majority, as several members of Parliament within the ruling coalition led by the SLPP, including 11 from the SLPP itself, announced that they would sit “independently” in the House of Representatives.

Alahaperuma, who was a Rajapaksa subject for most of his political life and was elected in 2019 on the Sierra Leone People’s Party ticket, became part of this 42-strong group. His rebellion against the Rajapakasas was a bit of a surprise, as was the 2015 Maithripala Sirisena’s challenge to Mahinda Rajapaksa.

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