Colombo Telegraph

WikiLeaks: Rajapaksa Trio Powerful, But Increasingly Isolated

By Colombo Telegraph –

“Ever since the 1978 Constitution transferred broad executive powers from the Prime Minister to the new Presidency, power has tended to gravitate toward the President. Although Rajapaksa’s electoral campaign manifesto promised to abolish the executive presidency, the concentration of power in the Presidency has accelerated during the Rajapaksa administration.” the US Embassy Colombo informed Washington.

The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked cable from the WikiLeak database. The cable is classified as “CONFIDENTIAL” details the Presidend Rajapaksa’s decision making process. The cable was written on May 15, 2007 by the US Ambassador to Colombo Robert O. Blake.

“At the same time, the Rajapaksas are increasingly isolated. The President both fears and despises what he disparagingly refers to as the "Colombo 7 Crowd,"

Under the subheading “Rajapaksa Trio Powerful, But Isolated” the Ambassador wrote “The recent cabinet reshuffle, which left Sri Lanka with one of the largest Cabinets of Ministers in the world, perversely has contributed to the centralization of power in the Rajapaksas’ hands because many ministers have overlapping or undefined responsibilities. The resulting confusion has meant that most important issues are handled by the President and his advisors, not by the ministers. The President himself holds ministerial portfolios including Finance, Defense and Ports and Aviation. He thus directly supervises over a hundred government departments and administrations. Together with discretionary Presidential spending powers, he personally controls over 60 percent of the national budget.”

“The President also has bypassed the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, which says the President should appoint the heads of key commissions and certain senior government officials on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council. His personal appointment of these officials calls into question their independence, and means there is little oversight of his decisionmaking. The constitutional changes that his SLFP put forward in its ‘devolution’ proposal would, rather than decentralizing power, actually tend to increase the President’s prerogatives. For example, he would appoint two-thirds of the new Senate’s members under the SLFP draft.” he further wrote.

Ambassador Blake wrote “At the same time, the Rajapaksas are increasingly isolated. The President both fears and despises what he disparagingly refers to as the “Colombo 7 Crowd,” Colombo’s western-educated, wealthy elite (most of whom live in the 7th district of the city). He has not included them in his inner circle and is not in touch with their views. In addition, his brothers lived out of the country until just before the election in 2005. As a result, they have a limited understanding of the Sri Lankan public’s concerns and few contacts within the country’s elite. This isolation has meant that almost all important decisions are made by a small inner circle with limited exposure to input and ideas from the country’s public or elite.

Related news;

WikiLeaks: Discord between the brothers -half to Basil, half to Gota

WikiLeaks: Basil is corrupt, limited educated and expelled from school

Below we give the relevant part of the confidential cable;

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 COLOMBO 000698

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INS
MCC FOR D NASSIRY AND E BURKE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/12/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER PHUM MOPS CESUBJECT: PRESIDENT RELIES ON BROTHERS FOR POLICY ADVICE AND
POLITICAL COVER

Classified By: Ambassador Robert O. Blake, Jr., for reasons 1.4(b,d).
Rajapaksa Trio Powerful, But Isolated
---------------------------------------

8.  (C) Ever since the 1978 Constitution transferred broad
executive powers from the Prime Minister to the new
Presidency, power has tended to gravitate toward the
President.  Although Rajapaksa's electoral campaign manifesto
promised to abolish the executive presidency, the
concentration of power in the Presidency has accelerated
during the Rajapaksa administration.  The recent cabinet
reshuffle, which left Sri Lanka with one of the largest
Cabinets of Ministers in the world, perversely has
contributed to the centralization of power in the Rajapaksas'
hands because many ministers have overlapping or undefined
responsibilities.  The resulting confusion has meant that
most important issues are handled by the President and his
advisors, not by the ministers.  The President himself holds
ministerial portfolios including Finance, Defense and Ports
and Aviation.  He thus directly supervises over a hundred
government departments and administrations. Together with

COLOMBO 00000698  003.2 OF 004

discretionary Presidential spending powers, he personally
controls over 60 percent of the national budget.  The
President also has bypassed the 17th Amendment to the
Constitution, which says the President should appoint the
heads of key commissions and certain senior government
officials on the recommendation of the Constitutional
Council.  His personal appointment of these officials calls
into question their independence, and means there is little
oversight of his decisionmaking.  The constitutional changes
that his SLFP put forward in its "devolution" proposal would,
rather than decentralizing power, actually tend to increase
the President's prerogatives.  For example, he would appoint
two-thirds of the new Senate's members under the SLFP draft.

9.  (C)  At the same time, the Rajapaksas are increasingly
isolated.  The President both fears and despises what he
disparagingly refers to as the "Colombo 7 Crowd,"  Colombo's
western-educated, wealthy elite (most of whom live in the 7th
district of the city).  He has not included them in his inner
circle and is not in touch with their views.  In addition,
his brothers lived out of the country until just before the
election in 2005.  As a result, they have a limited
understanding of the Sri Lankan public's concerns and few
contacts within the country's elite.  This isolation has
meant that almost all important decisions are made by a small
inner circle with limited exposure to input and ideas from
the country's public or elite.
BLAKE
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