President Gotabaya Spearheads the Return of Ruhunu Rajapaksas – Part Two
The election of Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the seventh executive president of Sri Lanka has effectively demonstrated that the “Ruhunu Rajapaksas” have come to stay as a dynastic political force in the country. As stated last week in the first of this two – part article the patriarch of this “Medamulana Dynasty” was Don Alvin Rajapaksa (DA Rajapaksa) the father of Chamal, Mahinda, Gotabaya,Basil and five other children.
DA Rajapaksa was initially reluctant to enter active politics. However he was compelled to do so by eminent residents of the then Hambantota constituency in the State Council legislature during British rule. They wanted him to fill the vacancy caused by the death of his elder brother Don Mathew Rajapaksa (DM Rajapaksa) dubbed the “Ruhunu Sinhaya”.
In a bid to exert maximum pressure on the hesitant DA Rajapaksa, a delegation of notables went to meet him with the nomination papers to contest the by-election while the prospective candidate was ploughing his fields. Bowing down to the popular pressure the reluctant DA finally agreed to contest the by election. In a scene reminiscent of Robert Knox’s famous statement about “ washing the mud off the farmer and placing him on the throne” DA Rajapaksa washed the mud off his hands and legs and signed the nomination papers. There was however no by-election. D.A. Rajapaksa was elected unopposed to the State Council representing the Hambantota constituency on 14 July 1945.
Don Alvin Rajapaksa was an old student of Richmond College Galle and was well-versed in English. He captained the Soccer Team and was Vice Captain of the Cricket Team. It is said that the ground record he set up in the match with Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa, still stands. Yet he had no qualms about becoming a full-fledged agriculturist. When he entered the State Council and took his oaths on 8 August 1945, he became a member of the Executive Committee on Agriculture and Lands.
Sri Lankan cricket star Muttiah Muralitharan spoke to Hindustan Times Padma Rao Sundarji over phone from Colombo, dismissing reports that he was offered the post of governor of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province
Q: Can you confirm media reports that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has offered you – and you have accepted – the vacant post of Governor of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province (NP) ?
A: No, it is a rumour that was first floated on Facebook. I was not offered that post and in any case have made it clear that I am not interested in politics. I am a sportsman, a cricket player, not a politician. My Foundation for Goodness has already been helping 60000 fellow citizens every year. If the country wants me to help in any specific way through our Foundation, there is no question, of course I will help improve lives in any way I can.
I write this piece in great sadness. But I must because if I do not, I feel I would failing in my duty as an former policeman.
I am sad for the independence of the Police, Independent Police Commission and the newly elected President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. We were watching his first steps as President with great admiration which even won the appreciation of many of his adversaries too. I am sad for him because this move appears to be the first botch in his impeccable record as President so far. After all he is human. To err is human.
I am sad for the Independent Police Commission because they appear to have meekly surrendered to political dictates in this instance. We are disappointed because they seem to have compromised their independence to ensure which that institution was created. Of course, we have to concede that they contributed to ensure an even playing field by not permitting the usual politically initiated pre-election transfers of OICs. But in hind sight, it may be more due to the fiercely independent Election Commission. Thus, in this instance the Independent Police Commission has failed the Police and also let down the public with whose funds they are maintained. Had they resisted the presidential dictate they may have lost their jobs. Well, that is the risk of their jobs! This Commission was not created to be another rubber stamp for the government. On the contrary they were expected to be the mechanism to insulate the police from political interference in their work.
The election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as President with a clear majority of 52.25% votes, 10.25% more than polled by his younger rival Sajith Premadasa of the ruling United Nationalist Party (UNP), tells many things. Sinhala majority has voted Rajapaksa clan back to power with a strong mandate; on the flip side, minority community votes mostly in favour did not help Sajith win.
With the consolidation of Sinhala majority in favour of President Gotabaya is likely to further delay the ethnic reconciliation process; it was never seriously taken up by both Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sirisena governments, during the last ten years of peace. In other words, ethnic polarization is here to stay.
Former Defence Attaché at Sri Lankan High Commission in London Brigadier Priyanka Fernando was found guilty at the Westminster Magistrate’s Court today for committing public order offences over the ‘throat slitting gesture’ in London, 2018.
The Brigadier displayed a warning during a demonstration by LTTE activists in front of the Sri Lankan High Commission in London on February 4, 2018. The incident led to controversy, with pressure for the removal of the Brigadier from office.
Colombo Chief Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne yesterday ordered seven electronic media institutions to hand over the unedited clips of the video footage of the news conference held by former Minister MP Rajitha Senaratne on the alleged abduction of the Swiss Embassy employee to the OIC of the Investigation Unit of the CID.
The CID informed the court that investigations had been launched into the remarks made by the former Minister about the current condition of the Sri Lanka Switzerland Embassy staff member Garnier Banister Francis, who was said to have been allegedly abducted.
This information was revealed by a submission by the CID Chief Inspector Ranjith Munasinghe to the court.
UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday proposed Sajith Premadasa as the Opposition Leader while putting off final decision on the party leadership. The UNP parliamentary group reached a consensus on the post of the Opposition Leader at Sirikotha.
Earlier, Sajith Premadasa loyalists demanded both positions-Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the party.
The Government has made a request to record a statement from former Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne in connection with the details he revealed about so called ‘abduction’ of a local employee attached to the Swiss Embassy in Sri Lanka, Plantations and Export Agriculture Minister and Co-Cabinet spokesman Dr.Ramesh Pathirana said.
The Government yesterday assured security for the employee of the Swiss Embassy in Colombo who is at the centre of a diplomatic row between Sri Lanka and Switzerland, and urged her to make a statement on her alleged forceful detention by a group of unidentified persons, so that investigations into the matter can be concluded speedily.
“We have conveyed to the Swiss Ambassador that the Government will guarantee her protection as well as of her relatives, but she is not available in any place to be given protection. We have assured her protection, and she must come and make the complaint or a statement, without which it is difficult to fully investigate the alleged incident,” Minister of Foreign Affairs Dinesh Gunawardena said.
The Minister briefed the media last evening on the investigations into the incident involving a local staff member of the Swiss Embassy, who was allegedly detained against her will and threated by a group of unidentified persons on the evening of 25 November.
Earlier in the day, the Minister also briefed all Ambassadors, High Commissioners, and their representatives on the investigations into the alleged incident, and assured the foreign envoys on the Government’s commitment to fully investigate the matter.
Additional Solicitor General Parinda Ranasinghe, President’s Counsel, yesterday informed the Colombo Special High Court-at-Bar, that the Foreign Ministry of Sri Lanka had requested the government of Singapore to extradite Arjuna Mahendran to Sri Lanka.
Mahendran is the a former Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.
The Presidential Commission, which investigated the Central Bank bond scams, has said that Arjuna Mahendran, Arjun Aloysius, Kasun Palisena and seven others, were at fault over the Rs. 16 billion loss caused to the state due to bond scams.
The Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Court today issued a temporary travel ban on the Swiss Embassy employee, who was allegedly threatened by a group of unidentified men, until December 9.
The Magistrate also directed the employee to provide a statement to the CID within that time.
When the case was taken up before Colombo Chief Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne, the CID informed Court that the Swiss Embassy employee’s name was found to be Garnier Banister Francis but her current residence could not be located.
Representing the Attorney General’s department, Senior State Counsel (SSC) Janaka Bandara informed the Magistrate that when the CID tried to get a statement from the Swiss Ambassador, the Embassy officials had refused to provide any assistance.
The Swiss Federal Court has ruled that the Tamil Tigers are not a criminal organisation and has acquitted 12 people of charges filed by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).
In its indictment, the OAG had accused the people of violating the Swiss Penal Code by raising funds for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) between 1999 and 2009. After its nine-year investigation, the OAG suspected the accused of financially supporting the World Tamil Coordinating Committee (WTCC).
(Text of a Press Release Issued by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs on 02.12.2019)
Following several demarches from the FDFA over the incident concerning an employee of the Swiss embassy in Colombo, State Secretary Pascale Baeriswyl has received the Sri Lankan ambassador to Switzerland based in Berlin, Karunasena Hettiarachchi, in Bern.
Ms Baeriswyl confirmed at the meeting that Switzerland supports measures to investigate and settle this matter by due process of law.
However, the employee concerned still cannot be questioned on health grounds.
Newly elected Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa says the island nation and India should put behind them the misunderstandings of the past and move ahead. In an interview with Padma Rao Sundarji, Rajapaksa said: “We genuinely want to strengthen our relationship. I have always said that we don’t want to do anything which will jeopardise the security of India or act against the concerns of India in any way. This is genuine.”
President Rajapaksa, when you spoke briefly to the cameras after taking the Guard of Honour at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Friday, you said your expectations from your first official visit to India were very high. You are about to leave now. Were they fulfilled?
The entire experience was very good, especially the one-on-one discussion with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I am very happy with the outcome. There were a lot of misunderstandings on both sides during the end of my brother Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidency. Now, we have to put those behind and move forward. And with PM Modi, I think it is possible. I came to know that he is a very practical person, so he will understand our needs. We genuinely want to strengthen our relationship.
I have always said that we don’t want to do anything which will jeopardise the security of India or, act against the concerns of India in any way. We also want to be a neutral country and not get involved in world power rivalries. We are small, so we don’t want to get in the middle. But strategically, of course the Indian Ocean has become very important. And geographically, Sri Lanka is especially positioned at a very crucial location because of sea lanes which pass close to it. We have always have said that the Indian Ocean must be a zone of peace. We will do whatever we can to keep it that way.
China claims that Sri Lanka has agreed to develop the Hambantota port and other on-going China-assisted projects as per the “existing consensus,”, thus virtually opting out of a bid to renegotiate the controversial 2017 agreement on the Hambantota port which had leased it out to China for 99-years.
A Chinese embassy statement, put out by Xinhua on Monday, said that during the visit to Colombo of Wu Jianghao, representative of the Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Sunday and Monday, China and Sri Lanka had agreed to speed up the implementation of cooperation on big economic projects, including the Colombo Port City and the Hambantota Port, “under the existing consensus”.
The statement added that on the basis of the existing consensus, the two countries will “draw up and promote a new blueprint for future cooperation.”
China and Sri Lanka yesterday agreed to speed up the implementation of large-scale projects and draw up a “new blueprint” for future cooperation following high-level meetings between President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Chinese special envoy Wu Jianghao.
The large-scale projects will also focus on the Colombo Port City project and the Hambantota Port venture.
A Chinese delegation headed by former Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Wu Jianghao, as the representative of State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and other embassy officials called on President Rajapaksa. He also met with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday as well as Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, United National Party (UNP) Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.
Following the meeting with President Rajapaksa, the Chinese embassy in a statement said that both parties agreed to further strengthen the “robust political trust between” both countries.
As exclusively reported by Daily FT yesterday, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa prorogued Parliament last night and fixed 3 January 2020 for the start of the new session of the Legislature.
The session of Parliament will commence at 10 a.m., the Gazette notification giving notice of the prorogation said.
The President prorogued Parliament under Article 70 of the Constitution and he is empowered to make a Statement of Government Policy at the commencement of each Session of Parliament and to preside at ceremonial sittings of Parliament.
The titles of two popular films figured prominently in the English language mainstream and social media during the course of Sri Lanka’s 2019 Presidential Election campaign. One was the English science fiction film ‘Terminator’ made in the USA while the other was the Hindi semi-biographical film ‘Pad Man’ made in India.
Both film titles were invoked with reference to the chief presidential race contenders, Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Sajith Premadasa, in different contexts. The former was called ‘Terminator’ and the latter ‘Pad Man’.
The 2019 Presidential election is over and Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been elected as the seventh executive president of Sri Lanka with a thumping majority. The result seems to have upset the calculations and predictions of many a commentator and analyst writing in English both in Sri Lanka and abroad. It has indeed been amusing to see some of them “blaming” the voters for going against the grain of their assessments. What they fail to realise is that the fault, if it could be termed that , was theirs alone and should not be attributed to the voters. It was the so called political pundits – including many with impressive academic credentials – who erred in gauging the voting trends in this election.
Swearing in the 7th Executive President of Sri Lanka – pic via: @RajapaksaNamal
I was also the recipient of several messages (this goes with the territory) conveyed through telephone, e-mail, Twitter and Facebook criticizing some aspects of my previous two- part article appearing in the “Daily Mirror” of 19 October 2019 titled “Gotaphobia’ Who’s afraid of Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa? and its sequel in the 02 November 2019 Daily Mirror under the heading “Presidential Race:Ordinary People expect better economic prospects and National Security”. Continue reading ‘President Gotabaya Spearheads the Return of Ruhunu Rajapaksas’ »
( Text of Media Statement Issued on December 1st 2019 by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs Under the Heading “Update on the alleged incident relating to Swiss Embassy staff member”)
The Government of Sri Lanka, having taken serious note of the alleged criminal incident concerning a locally recruited staff member of the Swiss Embassy in Colombo, on Monday, 25 November 2019, immediately ordered a thorough investigation into this matter.
This evening (1 December 2019) Secretary/Foreign Relations Ravinatha Aryasinha together with Secretary/Defence Major General (Retd.) Kamal Gunaratne and relevant officials met with the Ambassador for Switzerland in Sri Lanka Hanspeter Mock and the Deputy Chief of Mission, and briefed them on the results of the investigation by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Police.
The alleged abduction of a Sri Lankan staff member of the Swiss embassy in Colombo has jolted the two-week-old new government. The grave seriousness is in the light of the international implications and the political fallout it portends.
“We are taking the matter very seriously. We have ordered a full investigation by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID),” Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa told the Sunday Times. His remarks came after a meeting he held on Thursday with acting Police Chief, Chandana Wickremeratne, Senior DIG (CID) Ravi Seneviratne and the CID’s newly appointed Director SSP W. Tillekeratne, who served earlier in Rajapaksa’s security detail for 12 years.
It came in the aftermath of Swiss Ambassador Hanspeter Mock meeting the Premier to express his government’s concern and seek an immediate investigation. He also met Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, who assured continued protection to the embassy. Investigators are still expecting a statement from the embassy and the victim. They believe the statements could help expedite investigations. The Swiss envoy also met Prof. G.L. Peiris, senior advisor to the Premier.
In Berne, the Swiss Foreign Ministry has summoned Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Germany, Karunasena Hettiaratchchi, who is concurrently accredited to Switzerland, for a meeting tomorrow (Monday). Switzerland is expected to deliver a message to the government. This is whilst groups of western envoys including those of the European Union met Foreign Minister Gunawardena to urge immediate action. They have been told that the CID was on the job.
Chief Inspector Nishantha de Silva, who was head of the Organised Crimes Investigation Division of the CID, fled Sri Lanka on November 24 without official leave. The government has learnt he was Geneva bound and has sought asylum in Switzerland. It has now transpired that two days before his departure from Colombo, CI de Silva had surrendered his service issue pistol and motorcycle. Even this fact has not been brought to the attention of higher authorities or the new government leaders.
This has fuelled fears that there was an organised effort to send him out of the country with assistance from those outside the CID. Such fear is based on the association of a group with CI de Silva over the many investigations he was conducting.
CI de Silva worked directly under the CID’s former Director, Senior Superintendent Shani Abeysekera, who has since been transferred as Personal Assistant to the Senior DIG (South). Abseysekera in turn worked under Senior DIG Ravi Seneviratne, to whom then President Sirisena granted a one-year extension after his retirement. It ends this month. It has come to light that Chief Inspector de Silva took along with him copies of documentation relating to several high-profile cases.
The Swiss Embassy last night issued a statement regarding the incident that took place on Monday (25 November) night involving one of its local employees, saying several false pieces of information are circulating in the reporting of this incident.
“On 25 November, a serious security incident involving an employee of the Embassy of Switzerland in Colombo occurred. The employee was detained against her will on the street and forced to get into a car, seriously threatened at length by unidentified men, and forced to disclose embassy-related information,” the Embassy said in its official statement.
(Text of Media release issued by the National Movement for Web Journalists oon 28th November 2019 condemning suppression of web journalists who campaigned for Sajith Premadasa Through Questioning by the CID)
The National Movement for Web Journalists protests the attempt to suppress the media and journalists after the new government was elected who acted in opposition to the incumbent President Gotabhaya Rajapakse during the presidential election which ended shortly.
With the victory of the new president on November 17, 2019, many websites and journalists in Sri Lanka have been subjected to direct and indirect repression. As a result journalists and web site editors campaigning for the victory of Sajith Premadasa during the election and who were against the previous government have been called to the CID.
(Approximate English Translation of Speech made in Hindi by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Welcoming Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa During the State Visit of the SL President to India)
November 29, 2019
Your Excellency President Gotabaya Rajapaksa,
Senior officials from Sri Lanka and India,
I am pleased to welcome President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his delegation to India. I heartily congratulate the President for his decisive victory in the election. I congratulate the people of Sri Lanka for the smooth election process.
The strength and maturity of democracy in Sri Lanka is a matter of great pride and joy.
It is an honor for us that President Rajapaksa chose India for his first foreign visit and gave us a chance to welcome him in India within two weeks of assuming office. It symbolizes the strength and dynamism of friendly relations between India and Sri Lanka. It is also a sign of how much importance both countries attach to these relations.
We look forward to working closely with President Rajapaksa for the progress of both countries and peace, prosperity and security in our entire common region.
The mandate that you have received expresses the aspirations of the Sri Lankan people for an organized, strong and prosperous Sri Lanka. In this regard, India’s good wishes and cooperation are always with Sri Lanka. A stable, secure and prosperous Sri Lanka is not only in India’s interest but also in the interest of the entire Indian Ocean Region.
Switzerland yesterday demanded an immediate and complete investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident in which a local employee of the embassy was detained against her will on the street and threatened at length by unidentified men, in order to force her to disclose embassy-related information.
The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) in Bern, in response to an email inquiry by the Daily FT, said Switzerland regards this incident as a very serious and unacceptable attack on one of its diplomatic representations and employees.
“Switzerland promptly reported the incident to the Sri Lankan authorities and is demanding an immediate and complete investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident. It also calls for the perpetrators to be brought to justice and for the guarantee of the security of the Swiss representation in Colombo and its employees to be fully restored,” the Swiss FDFA said.
It added that this message was conveyed yesterday by the Swiss Ambassador to Sri Lanka to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena together with a diplomatic demarche.
Fears of a potential crackdown on critics of the newly returned Rajapaksa political dynasty in Sri Lanka are rising just days after the election, as officials and journalists who investigated the Rajapaksas for human rights abuses and corruption began trying to flee the country, officials said.
In a case that raised particular alarm, a Sri Lankan employee of the Swiss Embassy in Colombo was abducted on Monday by unidentified men and forced to hand over sensitive embassy information, Switzerland’s foreign ministry said. Officials in Colombo said the men forced her to unlock her cellphone data, which contained information about Sri Lankans who have recently sought asylum in Switzerland, and the names of Sri Lankans who aided them as they fled the country because they feared for their safety after Gotabaya Rajapaksa won the presidency in elections this month.
On the same day, Mr. Rajapaksa imposed a blanket travel ban on more than 700 members of the Sri Lankan police unit that had been investigating the family. And other police officers raided a news outlet critical of the Rajapaksas and forced several journalists to hand their computers over for analysis, in what the police said was an investigation into accusations of hate speech.
On Wednesday, a spokesman for President Rajapaksa at first denied the abduction of the Swiss Embassy employee, and then hours later said that “defense authorities have decided to look into those allegations to ascertain the truth.” More broadly, government officials said there was no intent to quash investigations of the Rajapaksas.
A local employee of the Swiss embassy in Sri Lanka has been temporarily kidnapped and threatened by unknown assailants in what the foreign ministry has called a “serious and unacceptable attack”.
According to the Sri Lanka news website lankanewsweb.netexternal link, the woman was kidnapped on Monday then held and questioned for two hours before being released.
On Wednesday, the Swiss foreign ministry confirmed the incident and told swissinfo.ch in a written statement that the woman was threatened in order to force her to disclose “embassy-related information”.
“Switzerland promptly reported the incident to the Sri Lankan authorities and is demanding an immediate and complete investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident,” wrote ministry spokesman Pierre-Alain Eltschinger.
The Sri Lankan ambassador to Switzerland has also been summoned to the foreign ministry in Bern, he added.
Rekindling the allegation of a deep state undermining the Pakatan Harapan government, a deputy minister claimed the decision to charge the 12 for attempting to revive the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was made when Atttorney-General Tommy Thomas was abroad, Malayasia’s Malaysiakini reported.
“The deep state exists in more than one institution. The AG was on holiday for two weeks. This is what I mean. Sometimes there is only so much one person can do.
“If the authority to prosecute is already signed, it is hard to retract because there is backlash. So, you need to stop it before it happens. So you see the deep state is multi-layered,” Sivarasa Rasiah told The Malaysian Insight.
Contacted by Malaysiakini later, Thomas declined to comment on the latest allegation.
The first Cabinet meeting presided over by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday approved an extensive stimulus package mostly centred on slashing Value Added Tax (VAT) to 8% from 15%, to give relief to major sectors and boost much-needed economic growth.
Newly-appointed Cabinet spokesmen Ministers Bandula Gunawardena and Ramesh Pathirana told reporters that the tax reduction package would come into effect from 1 December, with Gazettes to be rolled out by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is also the Finance Minister.
Parliamentary approval is expected to be sought later.
“This one Cabinet paper has given as much relief as an entire Budget,” Information and Communications Technology, Higher Education, Technology and Innovations and Media Minister Bandula Gunawardena said. “This is the first of many victories for the public.”
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has requested the Tamil diaspora to work together to develop the country and help the people irrespective of their community.The President has said this in an interview with Nitin A. Gokhale, Editor-in-Chief of Bharat Shakti.in and SNI.
When the interviewer commented on peaceful existence, the President said, “Yes, so rather than just criticising and I would like to even request the Tamil diaspora to forget these things, nobody is benefitted; rather we must work together to develop our country, help the people in our country irrespective of their (community). Everybody is a Sri Lankan citizen if they are born in Sri Lanka. They have equal rights.”
The full interview;
Q: Hello and welcome, I’m Nitin Gokhale and I’m privileged to have with me today Sri Lanka’s new President Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa. A former soldier turned administrator and now the nation’s chief executive.
Welcome Mr Gotabaya to this interview and I’m really honoured and privileged that you’ve given time to me. I think this is perhaps your first interview after taking over as Sri Lanka’s seventh executive President. When you spoke first after becoming President, you mentioned that we are equidistant from almost every power in the region and you want to be neutral. If I am reading correctly, national security and national priorities are your first priorities, rather than looking at who you align with. But this question always crops up, that’s why I’m asking you—is it China versus India in Sri Lanka? What is your view on this?
Indicating that the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution was a priority for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s administration, Foreign Affairs Minister Dinesh Gunawardena yesterday said the key agreement would soon be revisited.
Speaking after formally assuming duties, Gunawardena said that they were focused on “revisiting” agreements signed under the previous Government.
He also noted that they would work to stabilise the nation’s political and economic climate.
Hours after a Police officer who was investigating several high-profile cases left the country without prior permission, the Government yesterday issued a directive to the Immigration authorities placing overseas travel restrictions on 704 CID officers.
The list containing the names of CID officers who are barred from overseas travel was sent to the Immigration and Emigration Office at the Colombo International Airport last morning, Police said.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday said he would renegotiate the Hambantota Port lease agreement, terming it a “mistake” and calling on the Chinese company to be open to the move while assuring that he remained committed to strong relations with the global superpower.
Rajapaksa, giving his first interview since taking office, told Indian Journalist and Defence Analyst Nethin S. Gokhle that he remained committed to close ties with both China and India.
In an hour-long interview aired on Gokhle’s Strategic News International (SNI) web platform and on the defence website Barthshakthi, President Rajapaksa stressed that Sri Lanka’s close relations with China during his brother’s 2005-2015 presidential tenure were misinterpreted by international analysts as a strategic military relationship, and claimed instead it was purely an economic partnership.
“Gotaphobia”: Who’s Afraid of Nandasena Gotabhaya Rajapaksa? – Part Two
This writer devoted several hours in the past fortnight to communicate with a cross section of Sinhala media personnel in the Southern, Central, Sabaragamuwa, North Western and North Central provinces of Sri Lanka. A few journalist colleagues in Colombo helped to put me in touch with them. Our discussions were focused on the up coming Presidential elections and about how the chief presidential candidates were likely to fare. I was very much interested in their assessment of the ground situation in the pre-dominantly Sinhala areas as opposed to those of the Colombo – based journalists.
Initially I was somewhat doubtful as to whether they would share their thoughts freely with me. Happily they were willing to do so and said that they appreciated my efforts to obtain their views.To my utter delight I found them extremely frank and forthcoming though none of them wished to be quoted explicitly by name and designation. I am very grateful for their helpful input and convey my thanks to them collectively here.
CID Officer IP Nishantha Silva who investigated several high-profile cases including the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge and the disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda has left the country yesterday with his family.
Police sources said that IP Silva has left the country without prior permission from the Police Department.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who visited the Bellanwila Raja Maha Viharaya yesterday during an interaction with the Chief Incumbent of the Temple Ven. Bellanwila Dharmaratne Thera and other members of the clergy also made reference to Silva’s departure from the country.
The day after the 7th President was sworn into office, racism celebrated a new birth on Facebook. Across many pages that played a key role in President’s electoral bid, the message was simple and clear. Sri Lanka was for Sinhalese Buddhists only, and his victory ensured the country would remain thus. All Tamils were labelled terrorists. An electoral map of districts that voted for the President’s opponent was juxtaposed with a map of Eelam.
The implication, explicitly noted or implicitly projected, was that the opponent’s bid was to divide Sri Lanka and give the Tamils what the LTTE wanted. And because of this ingratitude, the suggestion was that the Sinhalese should inhabit these areas as well since nothing good would ever come from Tamils. The Sri Lankan flag was replaced by the Lion flag next to the Buddhist flag. Lions, in fact, dominated the images across these pages. In other pages, the Lion covered the entire map of Sri Lanka. ‘Lions are back’ proclaimed a notorious page supporting the new President, with an image of him and his brother on two ends, with a Lion in the middle.
In the background to the images of both men, maps of Sri Lanka covered by the Lion symbol. In more explicit posts, Hakeem, Bathiudeen and Sampanthan were called the f word, reminding them that the electoral result was an indication the Sinhala race wasn’t dead. Many pages congratulated the new President as the representative of the Sinhala Buddhists.
Hyper-conscious of public optics, the new President tweeted that “I am the President of not only those who voted for me but also those who voted against me and irrespective of which race or religion they belong to.” And yet, the racism on the pages continues in the same vein. All the posts are hugely popular.
Foisting the blame for the catastrophic defeat of the United National Party (UNP)-led alliance at the November 16th polls to elect Sri Lanka’s seventh Executive President, on ‘Sinhala Buddhist nationalism’ and a panicked security mindset consequent to Easter Sunday’s jihadist attacks is a convenient fairy tale. Certainly these were factors enabling the defeat, as stoked to a hysterical level by prejudiced media. But that is only part of the truth.
A calamitous mixture of arrogance and ignorance
Rather, the disastrous seeds to Saturday’s disastrous defeat were sowed by the now ejected Government itself, almost at the outset of its coming into power in 2015. This is important to recognise in all its unpleasant ramifications if mistakes of the past are to be remedied. Decision-making limited to lofty pronouncements in Colombo with no impact on the ground, callous robbing of the public purse via the Central Bank by the UNP leadership coupled with deliberate sabotage of the legal process in respect of major corruption cases during the Rajapaksa Presidency weighed the scales to the negative. Securing of democratic freedoms of expression and the right to know were not enough.
Shot through with a disastrous mixture of arrogance combined with ignorance at many levels, the reform process spluttered because those at the helm resorted to short cuts. Fatal tendencies of the so-called ‘reformists’were immediately apparent. Constitutional drafting was one good example.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appears restrained by a constitutional conundrum on whether he can take on the portfolio of Defence Minister.
As President, the Constitution makes him the Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, but the 19th Amendment arguably prohibits him from holding a ministry.
In the 15-member caretaker cabinet that has been appointed there is no Defence Minister included, but on Friday, the President issued a Gazette keeping the tri-forces to assist the police in maintaining law and order under the Public Security Ordinance.
The new Government’s legal advisers are seeking ways and means of resolving this either by bringing the armed forces as subjects under the President, or seeking an opinion from the Supreme Court, the Sunday Times learns.
I did not vote for you, nor am I aligned with a political party. My family are a colour pallet of green, blue, red and now the new pink. Nor am I a political pundit or have a degree in political science.
I am writing to you as I find your supporters, the social media and your colleagues, appear to be under the illusion that your failure to win the Presidential elections was due to a single reason and that reason being the RW factor.
I am no friend of RW. In fact I have little respect for the supposed gentleman, considering the manner in which he has hogged the UNP party leadership despite successive defeats, without giving the young blood of the party a chance. His obvious favouritism towards his chronies is akin to MR’s nepotism. It is also undeniable, RW’s “I will continue to be the PM” line on the campaign trail may have adversely impacted your elections campaign. However, none of those are the reasons why I didn’t vote for you.
Fifteen ministers were sworn in before President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa this morning at the Presidential Secretariat.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa sworn in as the Minister of Defense, Public Security, Law and Order, Finance, Economic Affairs, Policy Development, Buddha Sasana, Cultural, Water Supply and Urban Development.
The other ministers who were sworn in as ministers include:
UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has been recognised by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, MP, as the Leader of the Opposition, political sources said.
Loyalists of MP Sajith Premadasa requested the Speaker to recognise him as the Opposition Leader while UNP General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, called for the appointment of Wickremesinghe to that post.
Sources said that Wickremesinghe had directed the party General Secretary to inform the Speaker of the decision.
India has expressed the hope that Sri Lanka’s newly elected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will pursue national reconciliation in a meaningful manner.
“Indian external affairs min conveyed (to Sri Lankan Prez @gotabayaR) about India’s expectations that SL govt will take forward the process of national reconciliation to arrive at a solution that meets aspirations of Tamil population for equality, justice, peace & dignity,” tweeted Devirupa Mitra, the Deputy Editor and Diplomatic Correspondent of The Wire, India’s foremost independent news-site, carrying critical opinion, investigations and reportage
The fallout from the United National Party’s (UNP) defeat at Saturday’s Presidential Election continued yesterday, with two groups within the party making a claim for the post of Opposition Leader, one backing current UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, and the other former Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa.
UNP Secretary General Akila Viraj Kariyawasam wrote to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya yesterday, nominating Wickremesinghe to the post of Opposition Leader, while MP Ajith Perera also submitted a letter to the Speaker with 45 signatures, recommending Premadasa for the post.
Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday took oaths as the 24th Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. Rajapaksa took oaths before his brother and newly-elected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat, and promptly assumed duties at the Prime Minister’s Office.
A new political party would be established with the leadership of Sajith Premadasa if Ranil Wickremesinghe does not resign from the UNP leadership and the post of opposition leader, MP Harin Fernando says.
Addressing the media in Colombo, Fernando said that Premadasa was the best person to lead the UNP and the Opposition. A number of other people should also leave their posts, if the UNP was to return to winning ways, he added.
The Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) will not be dissolved by a Government headed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) said yesterday, insisting that it would take forward ongoing probes on the bond scam as well as investigations into other corruption allegations that surfaced over the past four years.
SLPP MPs speaking at the first press briefing to be held after the appointment of President Rajapaksa, said the party would continue with the FCID as they believe it had the capacity to function independently to investigate allegations of corruption against the United National Party (UNP) or any others.
“The FCID was never our issue. The objective of the FCID and how the Government used it to further its political agenda was our only concern. People should be able to directly lodge their complaint with the FCID and not have cases picked by politicians. Previously, we were concerned that the FCID was controlled by the Prime Minister’s Office and there could be political interference behind every investigation. But we can now change that situation,” Gammanpila said.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will hand over his letter of resignation to President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa today, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
“I met the President on Tuesday and spoke about the future activities of Parliament. We decided that we must accept the people’s mandate and allow the President to form a government, although we have the majority in Parliament.
I respect and cherish democracy. Therefore I decided to resign as Prime Minister. I will inform this decision officially on Thursady,” Wickremesinghe said.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will resign from his post this morning, paving the way for Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa to be sworn in as the new Premier later in the day.
Wickremesinghe will officially inform President Gotabaya Rajapaksa of his decision this morning.
While the United National Front (UNF), headed by Wickremesinghe, commands the majority in Parliament, the decision to step down was taken as “We accepted the mandate of the people and decided to extend our cooperation to him (President Gotabaya Rajapaksa) to form a Government,” Wickremesinghe said in a special statement last evening.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will step down today making the way for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to appoint a new Cabinet, Daily Mirror learns.
The Prime Minister called on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday and discussed it. He will have a special Cabinet meeting at 4.00 p.m. today. Afterwards, he will make a public statement announcing his resignation from office.
(Text of a Press Statement Issued Through the Media Office of the Tamil National Alliance)
The Presidential election held on 2019.11.16 to elect the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka has been peaceful and Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been declared elected as the President of the Republic of Sri Lanka. We extend to him our congratulations.
I take this opportunity to thank the Elections Commissioner and his staff, Security Forces, all other public servants, Local and International monitors, and to all Leaders and members of all political parties for all their support and commitments in conducting a peaceful election.
The people belonging to all Administrative and Electoral districts in the North and the East have very largely voted for Mr. Sajith Premadasa who in his Election Manifesto outlined certain features pertaining to the resolution of the longstanding national question.
The Speaker of Parliament had carried out discussions with the Prime Minister, opposition leader, party leaders and several parliamentarians regarding the future course of action of the Parliament after the President has been sworn-in.
A release issued by the Speaker’s media unit says that the majority were of the view that action is taken based on the clear mandate that has been shown.
Sri Lanka’s new President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has accepted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation to visit India on November 29, Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said after meeting the Sri Lankan President this evening in Colombo.
On Sunday, PM Modi had invited Mr Rajapaksa to visit India as his first official foreign tour.
Mr Rajapaksa will visit India on November 29, Mr Jaishankar tweeted.
Sri Lanka constitution has to be changed and a 19th amendment should be abolished, Basil Rajapaksa, brother of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said in a television interview.
“It is my view that the 19th amendment should be completely abolished,” Rajapaksa, who formed the Sri Lanka Podujana Party of the new President said in an interview with Hiru TV, a privately owned television channel.
“There is a similar view in our party. The 19th has some good parts. It has more bad parts. As a whole it should be removed. But there are some parts which are good, which we can keep.”
Speculation was rife last night that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will step down today, along with members of the Cabinet, to pave the way for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to make new appointments, whilst others claimed the former will hold on for a little longer.
Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said that he will hold several discussions today, including with ruling party parliamentarians, before stepping down. Wickremesinghe is under pressure to quit UNP leadership and retire after the massive defeat of the party at Saturday’s Presidential Poll, whilst some analysts claim he emerged victorious as far as party politics was concerned.
The appointment of a new Prime Minister and Cabinet is likely to be delayed till tomorrow pending a top level meeting between President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa tomorrow.
The probable way forward came under discussion at the UNP parliamentary group meeting yesterday whilst there were mixed views on whether to extend support to the UPFA for an immediate dissolution of Parliament or remain in Opposition till end February next year.
The government parliamentary group, which met, yesterday, was divided between Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Sajith Premadasa, who resigned as the UNP Deputy leader following his defeat at Saturday’s presidential election.
One group objected to Prime Minister’s decision to dissolve Parliament and go for a snap parliamentary election.
Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Minister Dr Rajitha Senaratne, speaking for Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s camp, raised three points. He said that the government had no moral right to continue as people had given a clear mandate. The government should respect the mandate the SLPP had received and let that party form a new government.
The government should not resign instead get the consent of Opposition groups to pass a motion in Parliament with a two-thirds majority to dissolve Parliament. He also said that going for an early election would help people to make a decision.
The EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) said yesterday that the Presidential Election was largely free of violence and technically well-managed, but that unregulated campaign spending, abuse of State resources and media bias did not provide a level playing field for all candidates.
Presenting the mission’s preliminary findings at a press briefing, Chief Observer Marisa Matias said while the campaign on the ground was largely peaceful and calm, the playing field in the traditional and online media was affected by instances of bias, hate speech and disinformation.
“This trend was further affected by the misuse of State resources by both frontrunners and the absence of campaign finance regulations,” she said.
While fully endorsing the preliminary findings and conclusions of the observation mission, Isabel Santos, the head of a delegation of Members of the European Parliament, said while they observed a well-organised and peaceful elections, action is needed to reinforce the legal framework, in particular regarding campaign finance transparency, and to level the playing field for candidates and parties in the media.
“It was very moving to see Sri Lankans side-by-side exercising their democratic right, irrespective of their origin, religion or social status. This is a sign that they want to work together. Politicians and leaders need to understand this and act to unite the country,” she said.
Newly-sworn-in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday, in his first address to the nation, outlined his policies, which centred on efficiency to drive economic growth, a non-aligned foreign policy, priority for national security and minority inclusivity to build a prosperous Sri Lanka.
Speaking at the historic Ruwanwelisaya under the shadow of King Dutugamunu’s statue, Rajapaksa yesterday held a brief swearing-in ceremony where he stressed the need for professionalism and efficiency.
“The Government should always set an example to society. Professionalism and efficiency should be the cornerstones of Government administration,” he said, pointing out that meritocracy and technocracy would be promoted. “I promise you that I will re-establish a professional, law-abiding and efficient public service which is free of corruption,” he added, pledging not to leave any room for corruption in his administration. Addressing the gathering, he reiterated the importance of national security.
“I consider national security to be our primary responsibility,” he stated, noting that his administration would rebuild and strengthen the nation’s security apparatus.
Rajapaksa revealed that he expected to form a new Government in the coming days.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, addressing the nation from Anuradhapura, yesterday, declared that he would form a new government. He said he had come before the people as the Executive President, Commander-in-chief and Defence Minister.
“I am addressing you as the Executive President of Sri Lanka, Commander- in-Chief and the Defence Minister who is responsible for your and your children’s security,” President Rajapaksa said in his inauguration speech, near Ruwanweliseya in Anuradhapura.
Rajapaksa said that he would not hesitate to use his executive powers for the betterment of society and that he would soon form a new government to implement the promises in his manifesto.
The President said that his administration would maintain friendly relations with all countries and stay out of any conflict among the world powers. “We request all nations to respect the unitary nature and sovereignty of the country, when maintaining relations with us.”
Gotabaya Rajapaksa of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) convincingly won the Lankan Presidential election held on November 16. Gotabaya got 52.25 % of the valid votes while his principal rival, Sajith Premadasa, got 41.99%, as per figures available in the evening of Sunday. Sajith conceded defeat in a statement released in the afternoon.
During the campaign, the contest was expected to be close, and the end a photo finish. And perhaps for the first time, there was even speculation about a second round taking place if none of the candidates got 50% of the valid votes plus one.
Such a delicate and uncertain scenario gained currency because both principal candidates were not top order politicians. Gotabaya was an army officer turned top level government official turned politician. But he became a politician only after the election was announced. His political experience was therefore nil.
Sajith, on the other hand, was a career politician but a colorless and undistinguished one. He was nominally Deputy Leader of the United National Party (UNP) but he had no role in shaping the policies of the party, a role which was performed by the Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and his select circle. Sajith hardly spoke about national issues and seemed satisfied with his work in his chosen district of Hambantota.
For many in South Block, the election in Sri Lanka will bring relations around full circle from five years ago. In October 2014, during Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s visit to New Delhi, when he was Defence Secretary to his brother, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, both the Ministry of External Affairs and the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval delivered him a tough message: that the Modi government took a stern view of Sri Lanka allowing Chinese naval warships into Colombo harbour.
The message clearly didn’t go down well with Mr. Gotabaya, and a week later, the PLA-Navy’s submarine Changzheng-2 and the warship Chang Xing Dao arrived at Colombo on a five-day visit anyway.
Sri Lanka insisted it had informed Indian officials about the plan in advance, and that the docking was routine, but the event put the Rajapaksa regime and the Modi government on collision course.
Matters came to a head shortly after, when an Indian diplomat based in Colombo was accused of conspiring with the opposition leaders to defeat President Rajapaksa, and subsequently returned to Delhi. In the elections that followed, Mahinda Rajapaksa lost to Maithripala Sirisena, who was warmly welcomed by the Modi government.
A lot has changed between the government and the Rajapaksas since that fraught period five years ago. The Rajapaksas are now back in power, although it is Mr. Gotabaya who is President, not Mr. Mahinda, because of two-term limits on the presidency.
As the outcome of Saturday’s presidential polls in Sri Lanka became clear, some voters’ message to the winner Gotabaya Rajapaksa was even clearer.
The island’s minority Tamils and Muslims, most of whom live in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, had voted decisively for ruling party candidate Sajith Premadasa, giving him over a million votes — about 80% of the vote share in the regions.
In effect, they had rejected Mr. Rajapaksa, a powerful former defence secretary accused of war-crimes — which he has denied — and linked to reactionary anti-Muslim groups.
Starting a new chapter in Sri Lanka’s political history Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa (70) will be sworn in today as the Seventh Executive President having securing a resounding victory on Saturday.
President-elect Rajapaksa was declared winner by Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya last afternoon after he won an emphatic victory in the Saturday’s Presidential Election, securing 52.25% of the vote. The margin of 1.3 million more votes was convincing and defied pre-election doubts that he could surpass the 50% plus mark.
In spite of a highly polarising election result which saw Rajapaksa sweep through Sinhala-dominant districts but lose badly in the North and East, he struck a conciliatory note in his first address to the people soon after being officially declared the winner.
(English Translation of Excerpts from Speech made by President elect Gotabaya Rajapaksa after Being Declared the Winner Officially)
It’s no overstatement: today we made history together.
16th November 2019 will be remembered as the day when the wounds of the past were healed, and our nation moved forward to embrace the future.
Sri Lankans chose hope over fear, unity over conflict, smile over anger. Our vision for a better tomorrow, won the hearts and the minds of the people.
From now on, the path to great achievements lies open in front of us and this was our first step together with many other accomplishments to follow. I promise not to stop, until we reach the heights Sri Lankans aspire to.
Sri Lanka’s ex-Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa who helped defeat Tamil Tiger separatists has been elected Presidentin a deeply polarized vote backed by mainly Sinhalese voters in the South of the country.
Rajapaksa won 6,924,255 or 52.25 percent of the vote beating Sajith Premadasa who polled 5,564,239 or 41.99 percent.
Rajapaksa’s brother ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa is expected to be prime minister in a Gotabaya administration.
In the deep Sinhala south of the country, Rajapaksa, polled double the votes of his rival Sajith Premadasa from the United National Party led National Democratic Party.
As the outcome of the Sri Lankan presidential poll became clear on Sunday, the candidate of the incumbent government Sajith Premadasa conceded defeat to his opponent Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He also resigned from the post of Deputy Leader of his United National Party (UNP).
Earlier in the day, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP or People’s Party) claimed victory – pending final results – after party candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa was seen to be leading in most districts in the country, barring the largely Tamil-speaking north and east.
(Text of Special Statement Issued by NDF Presidential Candidate Sajith Premadasa on Nov 17th 2019)
At the conclusion of a hard fought and spirited election campaign, It is my privilege to honour the decision of the people and congratulate Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa on his election as the seventh President of Sri Lanka.
I express my heartfelt gratitude to all of our citizens who voted for me, in all corners of the island. I am humbled that you placed your faith in me. Your support has been a fountain of strength throughout my twenty-six-year-long political career. I
also wish to place on record my gratitude to all those who worked tirelessly on my campaign. My family and I will never forget your sacrifice and dedication.
As voting ended on Saturday, the rival political camps of Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Sajith Premadasa in Sri Lanka’s presidential election appeared confident that the high turnout would push their candidate past the required 50% mark.
A second round of counting will be undertaken to tally preference votes if neither contestant secures over half the vote share.
The following is a transcript of an exclusive Sunday Times Q and A with SLPP Presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Q: When General Sarath Fonseka contested the Presidential Elections of 2010, you felt at the time that a military officer cannot transform himself into a politician. Being a military officer yourself, how do you feel about it now?
There are many examples of military officers transforming themselves into successful politicians in other countries . But in almost all these success stories they had entered mainstream politics after being involved in social and political work for some time. Only then you get a clear idea of people’s expectations and the socio economic problems that you have to deal with. You need to spend sufficient time developing a clear vision as to how you are going to serve the people if you want to be an effective politician.
Q: You pride yourself as a ‘doer’ rather than a ‘talker’ like most politicians. You deserve that title for winning the war effort and your work at the UDA. However there is a public perception that you have an authoritarian disposition and way of getting a job done. Any comment?
Each leader has his own leadership style. What matters is not the perception but the actual results. Also remember that perception is not necessarily the reality. I have always been able to motivate people for better results
Police yesterday threatened to file court action if any military roadblocks or checkpoints were set up in the Jaffna District today, as such obstacles to voting would constitute a violation of election laws.
Against the objections of the army and local security forces commanders, police yesterday ordered the roadblocks be dismantled insisting that freedom of movement was essential for voters in Jaffna to be able to exercise their franchise.
– Song Written by Frank Churchill for the 1933 Walt Disney Animated Film “Three Little Pigs”
“Onna Babo Billo Enawaa” was a familiar threat often used by grown -ups to frighten children into obedience in those days. Fear would be instilled into children that the kidnapper with the sack (Goni Billa) would grab them if the kids did not do as they were told. Nowadays few people resort to such threats in dealing with children.
Nandasena Gotabhaya Rajapaksa
In politics however the practice of instilling fear into people for a specific purpose prevails still. An effective psychosis or phobia of certain persons, concepts, processes and projects – very often irrational and/or unjustifiable – are created in the minds of people to manipulate emotions deliberately with the political purpose of whipping up opposition or garnering support for an individual or party. Continue reading ‘“Gotaphobia”: Who’s Afraid of Nandasena Gotabhaya Rajapaksa?’ »
The political spectacle “Ekwa Idiriyata”(Forward Together) that unfolded on October 10th at Galle face green has elevated the morale of the green party to ecstatic heights. A mammoth crowd – estimated by some of being in the range of six digits – gathered on the shores of the Indian ocean to see, hear and cheer United National Party (UNP) leaders. A festive mood was much in the air as the UNP led Front’s Presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa launched his election campaign with the inaugural rally at the green.
Pic via: FB/UNP
What seemed to have pleased and energized the crowds most was the sight of UNP Leader and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe appearing alongside party Deputy leader and presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa unitedly on a common platform to espouse the latter’s candidacy. Ranil made a rousing speech in support of Sajith while the candidate outlined the policy measures he hoped to undertake when elected president. The speeches were eagerly lapped up by a buoyant audience. Continue reading ‘Rivalry and Rapprochement Between Ranil and Sajith: What Did Happen?’ »
Ever since the name of Gotabaya Rajapaksa began to be bandied about as a potential candidate at the Sri Lankan presidential elections, doubts have been raised as to whether the former defence ministry secretary could win at the hustings. This skepticism has intensified in recent times after former president Mahinda Rajapaksa formally announced his brother’s candidacy at the Sri Lanka Podujana Party(SLPP) Convention on August 7th this year.
There is political excitement in the air in anticipation of Presidential elections before the end of the year. Even though no dates have been specified there is much speculation about prospective candidates and their prospects. Among those being spoken of as a potential presidential election contender is Hambantota District Parliamentarian and Cabinet Minister of Housing and Construction Sajith Premadasa who is also the United National Party (UNP) deputy leader. Sajith is the son of Ranasinghe Premadasa who served as Prime minister of a United National Party (UNP)Government from 1978 to 1988 and as President of Sri Lanka from 1988 to 1993.
The eighth Sri Lankan presidential election is expected to be held on or before December 7th this year. Though dates have not been announced yet, many names are being bandied about as potential candidates. Among such names is Hambantota district parliamentarian and cabinet Minister of Housing and Construction and Cultural Affairs Sajith Premadasa who is also the United National Party (UNP) deputy leader.
June 23, 1989. Sajith with President R. Premadasa at Mahiyanganaya Rajama Viharaya on his Birthday
Sajith Premadasa is the son of former Sri Lankan president Ranasinghe Premadasa who was assassinated by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) on May 1st 1993. Sri Lanka known formerly as Ceylon was the first country in the South Asian region to adopt the practice of dynastic succession in political leadership. The first prime minister of Independent Ceylon D. S. Senanayake was succeeded by his son Dudley Senanayake in 1951. In 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike the widow of , Prime minister S.W.R. D. Bandaranaike assassinated in 1959 , became Prime minister. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga the daughter of two past Prime Ministers became Prime minister in August 1994. When she became the President in October 1994, her mother Sirimavo Bandaranaike was appointed Prime Minister. Mother and daughter being Prime Minister and President simultaneously is a world record. If therefore Sajith does indeed become a President like Ranasinghe Premadasa they would be the first father and son ti be Sri Lankan presidents. If that happens Sri Lanka would have added another notch to its Totem pole of dynastic politics.
In the final few days of the campaign trail, the usual talk is once again resurfacing. Apparently the NDF candidate is “picking up the pace” and “closing the gap”. This view isn’t without merit. The SLPP campaign definitely plateaued and with Sajith Premadasa claiming that he would “appoint a first-time PM”, there are definite steps towards the gap being narrowed. But the underlying story has not changed, and Sajith will have to do a lot more if he wants to beat Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
The story of 2015: A scapegoat for economic struggle
To understand why the 2019 election will go to the Rajapaksas, we need to look back at why it went away from them in 2015. In addition to both a re-energised UNP base that now thought its party genuinely could win as well as the support of an SLFP group that pledged loyalty to the party instead of to its then-mascot (read MR), the NDF benefitted from an upswell in support for the argument that the Rajapaksas were corrupt and authoritarian.
However, this was not a new argument. The UNP had been peddling this argument for almost a decade, but only now were they able to find traction. Why? The answer lies in the weakening economy. After the economic boom following the end of the civil war, the economy tanked. People started wondering: the war is over and the economy started growing, but I have no money now. Where is all the money? The easy answer that the NDF latched on to: The Rajapaksas stole it. That was why the argument of corruption touched the hearts of people.
Why wouldn’t it? When they were working overtime to feed their families, they hear of Namal Rajapaksa buying million-dollar cars. Regardless of whether they were true, stories like this were enough to hit hard and hit home. Abstract ideas of corruption and democracy would not matter so much to the average Sri Lankan, especially not against the ‘King’ who won the war. But personal struggles mattered. The vote swung. The Rajapaksas lost.
Armed men stabbed and injured a writer in Sri Lanka on Thursday, a week after he published a book criticising the main opposition candidate at Saturday’s presidential polls, police said.
The attackers stormed the home of Lasantha Wijeratne, who released his book “Wasteful Development and Corruption” last week and gave a copy to ruling party candidate Sajith Premadasa.
“Four men broke into the house and stabbed him in the arm after holding a pistol to his wife’s head,” Wijeratne’s lawyer Tharaka Nanayakkara told AFP by telephone. “They smashed furniture before escaping.”
Police said they launched an investigation into the pre-dawn attack in Galle, 115 kilometres (72 miles) south of Colombo, but no arrests had been made.
Nanayakkara said the attackers accused Wijeratne of harming the campaign of Gotabaya Rajapaksa who is believed to be in a close race with Premadasa for the top job.
Amid the excitement of the Ayodhya verdict and opening of the Kartarpur corridor to Indian devotees of Nankana Sahib, the Sri Lanka Presidential election to be held on November 16 finds little space in the media, not even in Tamil Nadu. The election will decide who will be at the helm in Sri Lanka in the next five years.
Internationally, Sri Lanka has emerged as the strategic pivot for China to assert its military and economic power in South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). China’s influence is to make further headway with the progress of the Belt and Road infrastructure initiative in the region.
These developments have become a source of major concern to India as its national security is tied with Sri Lanka by geography. Growing Chinese power in IOR has increased the concern to the USA and its East Asian and European allies, dominating the Indo-Pacific.
The election is being held at a time when the country’s governance has taken a beating ever since President Maithripala Sirisena made an abortive effort in October 2018 to replace the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe with former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. The infighting between the two exposed serious deficiencies in national security with the April 21 Easter Sunday attacks costing more than 253 lives. The anti-Muslim backlash that followed highlighted the potential threat of religious extremism getting out of hand. These events overshadowed some of the achievements of the government, which came to power promising good governance, rule of law and greater accountability.
The country is facing severe economic pressure compounded by growing debt servicing load, high cost of living and unemployment. Alleged war crimes and forced disappearance issues after the Eelam War continues to hang fire delaying efforts to bring ethnic amity. The election will also decide whether former president Mahinda Rajapaksa will emerge powerful again.
Of the 35 candidates, the real contest is between 70-year-old Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the controversial former defence secretary and brother of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sajith Premadasa, 52, housing minister and son of former president Ranasinghe Premadasa.
National People’s Power (NPP) presidential candidate Anura Kumara Dissanayake said today they were committed to creating a country with humanity while protecting the rights of all communities.
Speaking at the final rally held last night in Maharagama, he said the NPP would create a country free of fraud and corruption where all communities could live in unity.
He said it was only the NPP that had been able to bring people in the North and South under one umbrella without racial differences.
“Both Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Sajith Premadasa went to the North and East with their agents in respective areas, but we were able to go there without any agent. The candidates of the two main camps were saying one thing to the Southern Sinhalese and something else to the Northern Tamils to gain their votes. We are conveying the same message to people in both the North and South,” he said.
Two civil society activists today an appeal with the Supreme Court seeking to overturn the decision last month by the Court of Appeal to dismiss their writ application that sought to quash the dual citizenship certificate of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Prof. Chandragupta Thenuwara and Gamini Viyangoda, co-conveners of the Purawesi Balaya civil society group, had filed a writ application in the Court of Appeal challenging the authenticity of the dual citizenship certificate granted to the former Defence Secretary on 21 November 2005 by his brother, newly sworn-in President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Refocusing attention on Sri Lanka Podujana Party (SLPP) presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s United States (US) citizenship renunciation issue is a last-ditch attempt by supporters of New Democratic Front presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa to stave off defeat, claimed Professionals Intervention for Policy Dialogue’s (PIPD) Dr. Charitha Herath yesterday.
“Gotabaya Rajapaksa came forth as the SLPP candidate because there was no doubt about him meeting the requirements to run for the presidency,” Herath said, adding that while anyone can have suspicions over another’s citizenship, there was a due process to be followed when acting on those suspicions.
Dr. Herath commented on the issue at a press conference held by the PIPD along with actor Ravindra Randeniya, musician Rohana Weerasinghe, and lyricist Bandula Nanayakkarawasam.
Two civil society activists yesterday filed an appeal before the Supreme Court, seeking to overturn the Court of Appeal decision to dismiss a Writ application that sought to clarify the status of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s dual citizenship.
Appellants were activists Gamini Viyangoda and Prof. Chandragupta Thenuwara, part of the Purawesi Balaya organisation, who filed the appeal petition.
Election Commission (EC) Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said yesterday that the EC has no interest in verifying the citizenship status of candidates contesting the Presidential Election, as it only accepts nomination papers of those who fulfil the legal requirements to contest the poll.
“Our interest is in ensuring that the person handing over the nominations fulfils the provisions of the Presidential Elections Act of 1981, which lays down the grounds for the rejection of the nomination papers.
These include non-payment of the deposit, incomplete or unduly attested nomination forms, if the person does not belong to a political party, nor is a Member of Parliament (MP). These are the conditions a candidate has to fulfil when handing over his or her nomination forms,” Deshapriya said.
A fresh row erupted over the citizenship of SLPP presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa over the weekend, with Sports Minister Harin Fernando alleging that the former had not completed the process of renouncing his US citizenship, which drew a strong rebuttal from lawyers for the SLPP candidate.
The row resurfaced after Fernando, in a lengthy Facebook (FB) post, on Saturday said Rajapaksa’s name has not appeared in the latest Federal Register of the USA even though the US law requires that the names of citizens who have lawfully revoked their citizenship to have their name published in the register.
However, a group of lawyers for Rajapaksa, led by Ali Sabry PC, yesterday strongly refuted the allegations saying that it can take months or even a year for the name of a person who renounces US citizenship to get on the Federal Register. Sabry also produced documents at a press briefing which he said confirm that the SLPP candidate is no longer a US citizen.
Underscoring that the Elections Commission (EC) was not concerned over citizenship of any presidential candidate, its Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said today he, along with two other commissioners, only observed and returned the document on US citizenship of Gotabaya Rajapaksa to his lawyer Ali Sabri.
Responding to a journalist at a news briefing held today at the Government Information Department, he said Mr. Sabri gave him a document saying it was a genuine certificate indicating the renunciation of Mr. Rajapaksa’s US citizenship.
Commenting on the on-going controversy over the citizenship of SLPP Presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa, two prominent civic action groups have said that “there should be no doubt about eligibility of person to be elected president”.
“The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) have expressed deep concern about anomalies with the affidavit submitted by SLPP candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa,” a CPA media communique said yesterday.
The CPA communique states: “A different affidavit was submitted by Rajapaksa’s Counsel, President’s Counsel Ali Sabry.
National Peoples’ Power (NPP) presidential candidate Anura Kumara Dissanayake yesterday assured northern people that they would create a situation where Tamil people would be able to learn and deal with the government in their mother tongue.
Speaking at an election rally in Kilinochchi, he said there were two state languages such as Sinhala and Tamil and added that it was vital to ensure the language rights of all communities.
NEW DELHI, November 9: The Tamil Nadu Government has issued a government order to include 9,000 new Tamil words in the language.
Currently, Tamil has over 4,70,000 unique words, and the over 2,000-year-old language is spoken by 77 million people in India, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia and other parts of the globe.
School Education Minister K. A. Sengottaiyan released the list of 9,000 new Tamil words at a function held in Ethiraj College in Chennai on Friday in the presence of Fisheries, Personnel and Administrative Reforms Minister D. Jayakumar and Tamil Official Language and Culture Minister K. Pandiarajan.
Speaking at the function, Minister K. Pandiarajan said the new Tamil words have been coined as a result of the hard work of experts from various fields for ten months.
Former MP and State Minister Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, who is running as an independent candidate under the ‘owl’ symbol at next Saturday’s presidential election, said he was contesting to draw attention to what had been promised in President Maithripala Sirisena’s election manifesto and to highlight the manner in which those promises could be implemented.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, Prof. Wijesinha, who supported Mr Sirisena when he successfully ran for the presidency in 2015, said Mr Sirisena broad-based reforms, but most of them had not been followed up.
Describing the past five years of the Yahapalanaya government as “disastrous,” the academic said he had now completed drafting a new Constitution along the lines of what was promised in Mr Sirisena’s manifesto.
According to him, the first of the major changes proposed is the reduction of executive power.
“We do not say in our manifesto that we are getting rid of the executive presidency. If we replace an Executive President with an Executive Prime Minister as Ranil Wickremesinghe wanted, that is still excessive power,” he said.
The Executive should be controlled by the legislature and should not be subordinate to a Prime Minister, he said.
“As for the electoral system, it should be a German style mixed system as promised in our manifesto,” Prof. Wijesinha said.
Regarding devolution, he said he wanted the devolution of power not through the provincial councils but through divisional secretariats and pradeshiya sabhas, making them a third tier of government. He said this too was a promise made by Mr Sirisena in his manifesto to make the divisional secretariat “the centre of service delivery to the people.”
Pohottuwa campaigners visiting predominantly Catholic belt neighbourhoods with flyers containing images of blood stained altars of the Katuwapitiya and Kochchikade churches while soliciting the vote for former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa must be reminded that the blame for allowing jihadists to flourish unchecked in Sri Lanka is multi-faceted.
Responsibility for intelligence failures is multi-faceted
Today, as the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) leadership inks electoral pacts with the Rajapaksa-led Pohottuwa, their joint battle cry is that national security is in peril. That is the mainstay of the Rajapaksa campaign. Yet the failings of the United National Party (UNP) is a poor second to the primary leadership failure of President Sirisena as Minister of Defence or the responsibility of the Rajapaksas themselves for nurturing fanatics in the East to act as intelligence spies in their networks who then monstrously evolved to carry out the Easter Sunday attacks. That cannot be just wished away by scapegoating ‘a few’ subordinates. This is to grossly insult the intelligence of the Sri Lankan people.
Indeed, President Maithripala Sirisena’s claim this week that the Easter Sunday jihadist attacks on churches and hotels could have been averted if a ‘few’ defence and security officials had acted diligently will probably qualify as the most shameful if not distasteful statement made by a national leader in recent years. This preposterous claim, made without blinking a Presidential eyebrow as it were, while opening the new Defence Headquarters at Akuregoda, completely bypassed President Sirisena’s own responsibilities as Minister of Defence and abysmal failure as the Head of State at several levels.
Sri Lanka’s outgoing President Maithripaa Sirisena has caused public outrage by pardoning a death row prisoner who had murdered a Swedish teenager in 2005. Jude Jayamaha, from a wealthy, high-profile family, walked free from prison following President Maithripala Sirisena’s highly unusual decision to pardon him.
The victim’s sister, Caroline Jonsson, said the killer had shown no remorse.
Sri Lankans criticised the move online.
Mr Sirisena is not standing in next Saturday’s presidential election. He had failed to get support from his own party to contest the poll.
President Sirisena announced last month he was considering a request to grant Jayamaha a pardon, saying he had behaved well in prison and had been jailed aged 19 “over an incident of impatience”.
Victim Yvonne Jonsson, a dual national whose mother was Sri Lankan, was beaten to death in the stairwell of the apartment block where her family was living in Colombo in 2005 after an argument.
During the trial, the court heard that her skull had been fractured into 64 pieces.
In less than a week, Sri Lankan citizens all over the island will go to the polls to select the country’s eighth executive president. There is no denying that, irrespective of the result, this election will mark a crucial turning point in Sri Lanka’s political history. A stark choice faced voters in the 2015 presidential election.
The people were called upon to choose between perpetuating authoritarian rule and turning a democratic corner. Despite the failures and disappointments of the past five years, I still believe our people made the correct choice that January day.
The 2019 presidential stakes have the same zero-sum quality.
As the country’s largest Tamil party, it was incumbent upon the TNA to make its position on the presidential candidates known to the people. That announcement was made last week. The TNA has endorsed the candidacy of Sajith Premadasa as the ‘better man’ in the 2019 presidential race.
Predictably, the announcement has brought out the worst in the Sinhalese extremists gravitating around Premadasa’s challenger. Allegations of “secret deals” and monetary hand-outs in exchange for the endorsement abound, ironically from the same political formation that admittedly paid to enforce a boycott and disenfranchise thousands of Tamil people in the North and East in 2005.
Our announcement has also escalated the unitary-federal rhetoric, as the SLPP seeks to misrepresent proposed constitutional definitions about the nature of the state, brought about by nearly three years of all-party deliberations, to monger old fears about separatism.
I believe a brief explanation of the terms under discussion is necessary to set the record straight.
“We see only Muslim villages have been developed, but not the Tamil villages. The only way for Catholic and Hindu villages to get developed is to vote for Gota.”-Namal Rajapaksa in Mannar.
“We have to act against Muslims. We Tamil youth have to think and act.” – leaflet by Kiran youth front for SLPP.
Mannar voters who are living in Puttalam are banned to come in hired private buses to cast their votes – Assistant Election Commissioner, Mannar.
If Muslims do not vote for Gota they will get it properly – Ali Sabri, PC
Whatever the reason given, in 2005 the vast majority of the Tamils from the North and East and even in Colombo did not go to the polling booths to exercise their franchise. The result, as they say, is history.
Yet it is imperative for that history to now be reflected upon seriously. The President who got elected partly due to the decision taken by Tamils not to exercise their franchise ruled over the entire country for the next 10 years, with grave effects for all.
On the eve of another Presidential election, where some are calling for new boycotts or putting up candidates deliberately to draw votes from the main contenders, the lessons of the 2005 boycott are particularly worth considering.
We have only five more days before we know, what fate lies ahead for minorities in this country. In every campaign platform in the north and east, what I see is racism and hatemongering centred around minorities.
Divide and rule has been the norm of Sinhala Governments since independence, but in this election it has reached a level we have never witnessed before.
When the UNP Presidential hopeful Sajith Premadasa and his backers bulldozed the former’s nomination as the party’s presidential candidate through the UNP executive committee -after a series of mass rallies and implicit threats of party division- their objective was just to have their man on the party ticket. It is unlikely that they thought beyond the nomination until that very moment.
The UNP’s depleting grassroots voters might have preferred Mr. Premadasa over the others, but he also had serious deficiencies in reaching out beyond them.
In the end, the dogged internecine campaign for Sajith’s presidential candidature forced the other probable contender, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to pull out. ( He was reportedly promised the post of prime minister if Sajith wins the presidency, though how that can be accomplished under the provisions of the 19th amendment, without the incumbent Ranil Wickremesinghe voluntarily resigning – other than, short of ousting him from the party leadership through a inner-party coup – is open to question.)
Ranil Wickremesinghe who insisted on running for the presidency until the last moment was a poorer choice. His confidantes deserted him and the Executive committee members that he himself appointed dithered. He finally gave up, paving way for Sajith’s presidential candidature.
The Presidential election campaign has almost reached its final stage today. You have ample clues to decide on which candidate to support if you look at the behavioural pattern in most election campaign stages. Most of the people seen on SLPP election platforms today are either owners of arrack factories, liquor bars, illicit rock or sand quarries and gem pits who ought to be behind bars today National People’s Power Presidential candidate JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said
He was addressing a National People’s Power Presidential election rally held in Wariyapola recently.
Jude Shramantha Anthony Jayamaha convicted for the brutal killing of the 19 year old Yvonne Jonsson at Royal Park in 2005 has been granted presidential pardon and most likely will be released today, highly placed sources confirmed to Sunday Observer.
Accordingly the documents relating to the release has been forwarded through the Secretary to the Ministry of Justice to the Prisons Commissioner.
“We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.” – George Orwell (The Adelphi – January 1939)
“The first duty of the Memory Police was to ensure disappearances,”writes Japanese author Yoko Ogawa in her tale of an island where things disappear, and disappeared things cease to have any meaning. We can become that island, if we give full rein to our dashed hopes. If Gotabaya Rajapaksa coasts to victory on the tide of our despair, our freedoms will disappear from reality and from memory. Accustomed to our subject-hood, we will forget that we were once citizens who had the right to hold a mirror before our leaders and call them by the names they have earned.
It’s a popular fairy tale trope: the hero kills the monster and claims his reward, a lifetime of happiness with the imprisoned princess.
In January 2010, the ITN held a musical show titled ‘Jaya Jayawe’ (Victory! Victory!). The show opened with a lullaby retelling the ‘heroic saga’ of ‘King Mihindu’ and ‘Chief General Gotabhaya’ who defeated the ‘demons’ threatening the motherland. It ended with a song praising the mother of Mahinda and Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
A political fairy tale with a happy-ever-after ending was what the Rajapaksas claimed for themselves, post-war. They had defeated the Tiger. Now, Sri Lanka was theirs forevermore, to do with as they wish – or so they believed.
That dream of transforming Sri Lanka from a messy democracy into a familial fief was interrupted in 2015. A singular political coalition took on and defeated the Rajapaksas.
The crimes, errors and idiocies of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration had turned what should have been a full stop into an ellipsis. Today, the Rajapaksas are back to reclaim the absolute power they deem to be theirs by right of conquest.
In 2010 and even in 2015, the Rajapaksas made some attempt to camouflage the true nature of their project. This time, the aim of grabbing political and national power for the exclusive use of the family is displayed unadorned. Brother has succeeded brother.
Who is winning? This seems to be the question many people these days are keen to find an answer to.
Whenever this question is put to me, my usual answer is one that disappoints the interlocutor: “It is difficult to say. But I can tell you a little bit about what I speculate as the current trend…” Such an imprecise answer can hardly please those who are impatient to hear something to confirm what they wish to be the outcome of the presidential election scheduled for next Saturday.
The difficulty in predicting possible election outcomes is largely due to the rapidly changing dynamics of the ongoing election campaign. The fact that Sri Lanka does not have credible and professional public opinion surveys at election times only adds to the difficulty. What we occasionally hear as survey results are nothing but calculated election propaganda.
Even without weekly data from sample surveys of the patterns of changing voter preferences across the country, some facets of the electoral dynamics can still be discerned.
Although the campaign has started with three dozens of candidates, four candidates quite expectedly emerged leading – Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Sajith Premadasa, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, and Mahesh Senanayake. The final race is now narrowed down to one between two candidates, Rajapaksa and Premadasa.