Symbolic swearing-in for Sri Lanka's new strongman

Cheryl Sanders
November 19, 2019

Another major challenge facing the new president is to lead the country out of its deepest economic slump in over 15 years, dragged down by its tourism sector following the April attacks on hotels and churches in which more than 250 people were killed. As a result, national security is seen as the dominant issue ahead of the vote.

Mr Rajapaksa, who has positioned himself as a strong figure who can assure the security of Sri Lanka, is a highly controversial figure among the more than two million Tamils.

He took the oath of office this morning before the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, in the presence of his brother, a former president and strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa, as well as opposition leaders.

"It was during Mahinda Rajapaksa's time that lakhs of Tamils were killed, women were sexually assaulted and both kids and elders were brutally murdered", Vaiko told reporters on Sunday. He was in power when thousands of people - particularly Tamils - went missing in what have been described as enforced disappearances between 2005 and 2015.

"In the face of the unequivocal people's mandate delivered at this election, we believe the government will abide by parliamentary traditions as appropriate in such circumstances", Rajapaska said in a statement.

On Sunday Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 70, thanked all voters in an election that heightened ethnic and religious tensions in a country that only a decade ago emerged from a brutal civil war that claimed 100,000 lives. "However, I urge them to join me to build one Sri Lanka", he said. "I promise to discharge my duties in a fair manner", he said.

But minorities feared his election because of allegations of human rights violations against him dating from the war.

With almost 1.4 million votes' lead, Rajapaksa won all except one district of Sinhala majority in southern Sri Lanka while his opponent Sajith Premadasa won nine districts out of which eight are from Tamil majority northern and Muslim majority eastern provinces.

In a message on Monday, Mousavi congratulated the Sri Lankan government and people after they voted to elect Gotabaya Rajapaksa as their new president.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa commands passionate support among many in the Buddhist Sinhalese majority in Sri Lanka.

"I knew that I could per chance defend with entirely the votes of the Sinhala majority". Their response was not what I expected. "We are pleased to see that and offer our honest congratulations to Gotabaya Rajapaksa on his success".

Sri Lanka still in shock, seven months after a bomb attack by Islamic militant cells that destroy the economy of the island, detached blow communal relationships fragile island and was the final blow to public confidence in the government has been tarnished by infighting.

Other reports by iNewsToday