ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan reigning Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MP Mahinda Samarasinghe has decided to vacate his seat and take up the post of ambassador to the United States, a source close to the MP said on Saturday (18).
“He has chosen the post of US ambassador,” the source, who has been involved in Samarasinghe’s political career for more than a decade, told EconomyNext.
However, local media said he would be named ambassador for the US and Mexico. Samarasinghe was not immediately available for comment.
The ex-MP was elected from the western coastal district of Kalutara of the island state in the 2020 parliamentary election. Of the eight SLPP MPs elected to parliament, he received the least preferred votes.
Kalutara District SLPP candidate Wadduwage Manju Lalith Varna Kumara is Samarasinghe’s next successor, a party source said.
Prior to his resignation, Samarasinghe was on a three-month leave of absence from parliament, which was approved by the legislature. He has only attended 48 parliamentary sessions out of a total of 93 since the 2020 elections.
Before entering politics, he was in the foreign service and in the 1980s first secretary of the Sri Lankan High Commission in Australia and advisor to the Sri Lankan Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva.
Samarasinghe entered active politics in 1988 and was elected to parliament by the center-right United National Party (UNP) in 1994. In 2006 he switched to the then government side and joined the center-left Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).
He had served in his parliamentary career as Minister for Labor, Disaster Management, Plantations, Skills Development, and Ports and Shillings. As port minister, he signed the China-built Hambantota port contract worth 1.5 billion US dollars, which is to be handed over to China in 2018 with a 99-year lease.
Samarasinghe is the third SLPP legislator to step down from parliament since July.
Jayantha Ketagoda has already resigned to make way for Basil Rajapaksa, the younger brother of the president and prime minister, to become finance minister in July. Last week, at the request of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Ajith Nivard Cabraal resigned to take up the post of central bank governor.
Samarasinghe left the Rajapaksa camp after the 2015 election defeat and joined former President Maithripala Sirisena. He lost the general election later in 2015, but Sirisena named him on the national list.
Samarasinghe’s name was in Wikileaks quoted by the then US ambassador in Colombo Robert Blake in 2007.
The telegram said Samarasinghe had expressed concern that the president and his two brothers had rendered his human rights and humanitarian access efforts ineffective and that he would not sacrifice his political career to “be part of a white linen” for the government of Sri Lanka (GSL) recent human rights violations. (Colombo / Sep18 / 2021)