PM Modi Greets Sri Lanka’s New Prez Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Sri Lanka’s controversial wartime defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 70, was on Monday, 18 November 2019 sworn-in as 7th Executive President .Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya administered the oath of office to Rajapaksa at the 140 BC Ruwanweli Seya Buddhist temple in the ancient kingdom of Anuradhapura in north-central Sri Lanka.In his address to the nation, he has pledged to give national security priority and follow a neutral foreign policy.”He has a huge task in lifting the Sri Lankan economy out of doldrums,” Al Jazeera’s Minelle Fernandez, reporting from Anuradhapura, said. Gotabaya Rajapaksa is the first military officer to assume office as his country’s Executive President. He has appealed to minority Tamils and Muslims who form about 20 percent of Sri Lanka’s 22 million populations to rally around him. The country faces a huge debt burden that the outgoing president inherited from Gotabya Rajapaksa’s brother and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Fernandez said that the “debt repayment is quite crushing.””Sri Lankans are looking forward to the same efficiency of management, as many people we spoke to pointed out, the way Gotabaya ended the war. They are hoping that he approaches the economy and other issues with the same single-minded drive. And he produces results.” Gotabaya campaigned on the plank of security and economic revival. He has vowed to fight corruption and make Sri Lanka safe seven months after deadly Easter Sunday attacks blamed on Muslim groups.

 

The April attacks on churches and hotels left more than 250 dead and hit the tourism sector – a major revenue earner – hard, and it was one of the main election issues.Gotabaya Rajapaksa is the younger brother of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and the two nationalist leaders gave the military a free hand to crush the Tamil separatists and end a 26-year civil war in 2009.The Rajapaksa brothers are popular with the Sinhalese majority and the powerful Buddhist clergy. In his first comments following his election victory, Rajapaksa said he would carry all his countrymen with him in the new Sri Lanka he planned to build.A former lieutenant colonel in the army, Rajapaksa is reputed to be a decisive leader who gets things done, whether it is finishing the war against Tamil rebels or developing the capital Colombo.Rajapaksa has been dubbed as the “Terminator” by even his own family, and critics say the 70-year-old leader should be tried for war crimes over allegations of killings, torture and forced disappearances during the final stages of the war against the Tamil rebels in 2009.He also faces a civil suit in the United States for allegedly ordering the torture of a Tamil man and several others when he was in power. Rajapaksa said in a tweet before the swearing-in ceremony. His elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was the country’s president from 2005 to 2015, former Minister Basil Rajapaksa and a large number of dignitaries, including parliamentarians, took part in the oath-taking ceremony. Rajapaksa  defeated Sajith Premadasa, 52, by more than 13 lakh votes, the election commission announced on Sunday. He will succeed President Maithripala Srisena for a five-year term. Rajapaksa secured 52.25 per cent votes (6,924,255), while Premadasa bagged 41.99 per cent (5,564,239) of the total votes polled. Other candidates got 5.76 per cent votes.The overall voter turnout at the election was around 83.73 per cent, Elections Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said.(with  inputs  from Aljazeera)  

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