السبت , يونيو 6 2020

Defeated SL leader 'sought army help'

Outgoing Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa waves to supporters as he leaves the President Secatariat in Colombo (09 January 2015)The outgoing president was praised by US Secretary of State John Kerry for his early concession of defeat

Former Sri Lankan leader Mahinda Rajapaksa tried to deploy the army when he realised that he had lost elections, a spokesman for new President Maithripala Sirisena has alleged.

He said that the head of the armed forces came under pressure to intervene shortly before Mr Rajapaksa conceded defeat on 47.6% of the vote.

There has been no comment from the military about the allegations.

The deposed president’s spokesman said that he could not discuss the claims.

Sri Lanka has largely been free of political interference in politics except for a coup in 1962 that failed to oust the government. Since then, there has been no direct military role in the government.

‘Tried to remain’

President Sirisena’s top aide said on Saturday that pressure had been applied by the outgoing leadership onto armed forces head Gen Daya Ratnayake to intervene in the result in the hours before Mr Rajapaksa accepted defeat.

Presidential spokesman Rajitha Senaratne speaks during a press conference in Colombo as army spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya looks on (10 January 2015)Mr Senaratne (left) said that the outgoing president was seeking military intervention ‘right up to last hour’

Pope Francis badges and other religious memorabilia are displayed for sale in a Catholic shop in Colombo (10 January 2015)The new president is expected to name his ministers before and after the Pope’s visit to Sri Lanka from 13 to 15 January

A Sri Lankan vendor displays newspapers for sale at a stall in Colombo with headlines about the election of Maithripala Sirisena (10 January 2015)The election of Mr Sirisena came as a shock to Sri Lankans and the international community

“The army chief was under pressure to deploy but he did not. He declined to do anything illegal,” Rajitha Senaratne, the chief spokesman for the new president, told reporters in Colombo.

“Even in the last hour, he [Rajapaksa] tried to remain in office. Only when he realised that he had no other option, he decided to go.”

Mr Senaratne did not detail whether the outgoing president himself tried to contact the military chief or whether the approach was made by his younger brother, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

Mr Senaratne also said that the new president has ordered an end to the censorship of dissident websites, the abolition of phone tapping and a stop to the surveillance of journalists and politicians.

The outgoing president was praised by US Secretary of State John Kerry for his early concession.

Mr Rajapaksa – seeking a third term in office after he changed the constitution to scrap the two-term limit – said on Twitter soon after the vote that he was working to a peaceful transition of power.

Mr Rajapaksa’s supporters credit him with ending the civil war and boosting the economy, but critics say he had become increasingly authoritarian and corrupt.

Mr Sirisena is expected to make an address to the nation from the historic hill resort of Kandy on Sunday.

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