Power to the President

With the election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as Sri Lanka’s new president, political culture in the country is in for a change. He is committed to upholding all the promises he made to the public.

By Atif Shamim Syed | December 2019

The 8th presidential election in Sri Lanka held on November 16, 2019 was a very closely fought battle between Sajith Premadasa – the candidate from the ruling party, and Gotabaya Rajapaksa – a member of the powerful political family that ruled the country with an iron first for more than a decade.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa won the election by securing 52.25% of the vote. His victory was formally announced by the election commission. Sajith Premadasa – the son of a former president slain by Tamil separatists in 1993 - admitted his defeat.

The elections already noted as highly divisive, were marred with violence from the very beginning. Only a few hours before the start of polling, unidentified gunmen fired on a convoy of Muslim voters. The same convoy was attacked by unknown attackers pelting stones. The election commission received reports from the Tamil-majority north of the country where illegal checkpoints were set up in order to prevent voters from reaching polling stations.

Muslims and Tamils are minorities in Sri Lanka. Both of them do not favour Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The violence incidents may have been engineered to instill fear into the two communities and thus, lower their election participation. Such election tactics are widespread in Sri Lanka which only emerged from a devastating civil war that waged for more than three decades and left thousands dead.

Retired lieutenant-colonel, Gotabaya Rajapaksa is a member of the powerful Rajapaksa clan, and brother of Mahinda Rajapaksa who ruled Sri Lanka from 2005 to 2015 as president. Gotabaya Rajapaksa was said to be representing his clan in these polls because the law does not permit Mahinda Rajapaksa to contest presidential elections for a third time.

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The writer is a free-lancer and an investment banker based in Karachi. He can be reached at syedatifshamim@hotmail.com

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