Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday reiterated that he had obtain dual citizenship in 2005, soon after Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected President, but he had renounced his US citizenship in April this year.
Speaking at an event held in Colombo, Rajapaksa said he had followed the relevant procedure and obtained his dual citizenship in 2005 in accordance with the law.
“Soon after Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected the President, he invited me to work as the Defence Secretary. As I accepted the invitation, I obtained dual citizenship before starting work as the Defence Secretary,” Rajapaksa said.
Rajapaksa argued that he had no reason to obtain any forged dual citizenship certificate when his brother was the President and the relevant ministries were under his portfolio. He noted the matter related to dual citizenship was a 15-year-old issue and in his view it was a baseless and irrelevant accusation.
“Mahinda Rajapaksa told me to renounce my US citizenship as I might have to contest an election. I have successfully renounced my US citizenship in April following my brother’s request. Now I only hold Sri Lankan citizenship.”
Rajapaksa noted that he had obtained a Sri Lankan passport and National Identity Card (NIC) in 2016. He pointed out that he had obtained his passport and NIC under the incumbent government.
“I view this as an attempt to block me from contesting the upcoming presidential election. But it is unfortunate that those who pledged to protect democratic rights are attempting to block me from contesting the presidential polls.”
He said he could prove his innocence and believed that the Judiciary would determine his innocence.
SLPP in flux over candidate?
Last evening, the Joint Opposition alliance met for crisis talks, to decide on how to proceed with Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s candidacy in face of the fresh litigation.
It remains unclear whether the SLPP will need to ensure it has a ‘contingency candidate’ waiting in the wings, in the event the case goes against Rajapaksa, sources told Daily FT.
The Gotabaya Rajapaksa campaign also published copies of his dual citizenship certificate that is now under scrutiny in the second highest court of the land, on Twitter, but the documents raised more questions than they answered.
The certificate first published by SLPP member Kanchana Wijesekera bore the Certificate Number 15305, a number the CID has already told the Chief Magistrate’s Court in a B report filed last Thursday, is assigned to another person. The CID’s 26 September B report seen by Daily FT also contains a copy of the dual citizenship certificate submitted to the Registration of Persons Department in October 2016, which bears the certificate number 15305A.
In a speech addressing an unofficial campaign event yesterday, even as his party scrambled to deal with the fresh legal crisis, the former Defence Secretary said his dual citizenship certificate which had not been a problem for 15 years was being touted as a forgery now. “Why should I forge a certificate? My brother was President,” Rajapaksa said, insisting that the document being challenged in the Court of Appeal was authentic.
SLPP Chairman G.L. Peiris denounced the move to scuttle Rajapaksa’s candidacy by using false legal arguments.