Colombo, August 11: Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, former Sri Lankan defence secretary, was on Sunday named as the presidential candidate of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party for the election scheduled for later this year.
Brother of former strongman President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabhaya, 70, headed Rajapaksa’s military campaign against the the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) between 2006 and 2009.
He attained super hero status among the Sinhala Buddhist majority of the country for ending the three-decades-long civil war with the LTTE.
Ending months of speculation, Rajapaksa on Sunday named his younger brother Gotabhaya as the presidential candidate and additionally took over the leadership of the new political party formed by the Rajapaksa family, the SLPP.
Rajapaksa thus ended his long association with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) of which he had been a member since the mid 1960s, and elected twice as the president from the SLFP.
“My brother is your brother now, we need discipline and law to uphold, Gotabhaya is the man for that,” Rajapaksa said while addressing the gathering.
“Security is of foremost importance in a country. I assure you the safety of your children. I will not let extremism lift its head in the country,” Gotabhaya said in his address.
“I have always did my duties going beyond boundaries and limits,” he said.
Gotabhaya was a Colonel in the Sri Lanka Army before migrating to the US in 1992.
“I will not let anyone to interfere in Sri Lanka’s sovereignty,” he said.
Gotabhaya, who has held dual US-Sri Lankan citizenship, renounced his American citizenship two weeks ago as under the nineteenth amendment to the Lankan Constitution (19-A), he could not become an elector due to his US citizenship.
Rajapaksa cannot contest a third time due to a time bar for the presidency which was introduced through 19A of the Constitution.
In Rajapaksa’s absence, Gotabhaya is seen as the most suitable candidate to carry forward the Rajapaksa legacy.
However, Gotabhaya has many cases pending in the Sri Lankan courts in addition to the complaints filed in the US by the daughter of a newspaper editor killed during the Rajapaksa presidency in 2009.
Almost every member of the Rajapaksa family has faced corruption cases which are pending.
“The passage of time has cleared us of charges , Rajapaksa said, adding that the current government’s inability to tackle pressing public issues had enabled them to make a political comeback after just four years.
The presidential election which must be announced by late September must be held before December 8 this year. (PTI)