By Saeed Shah/Wall Street Journal
Sri Lanka became an early adopter of what became China’s Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure program, which aims to strengthen Beijing’s sway through Asia and beyond by building infrastructure.
The Rajapaksas were succeeded by a more pro-Western government, under which Sri Lanka became a new logistics hub for the U.S. Navy in the Indian Ocean. Washington wants the new Sri Lankan government to sign on to a U.S. economic aid program, and agree to an expanded U.S. military presence. Those pacts are less likely under the Rajapaksas, say diplomats and analysts.
The brothers deny the allegations over human rights. They say they had no choice but to turn to China to fund development back then, as other countries weren’t offering financing. This time, they say they hope to attract investment from more countries, including the U.S.
“If we made some mistakes under our previous government, we will make sure that will change,” said Basil Rajapaksa, a third brother, who manages Gotabaya’s campaign.
European countries worry that any rollback on democracy and human rights could require them to again halt Sri Lanka’s preferential trade access, as they did during the previous Rajapaksa administration and restored only two years ago.