Asia - Pacific

Sri Lanka: Rajapaksa apparent winner as foe bows

Powerful former defense chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa enjoying comfortable lead in presidential poll as counting continues

Munza Mushtaq   | 17.11.2019
Sri Lanka: Rajapaksa apparent winner as foe bows

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka   

After running as an opposition candidate, Sri Lanka’s one-time defense secretary is cruising to an apparent comfortable victory from Saturday’s presidential election.

Although final results have not been announced, ruling party candidate Sajith Premadasa has already conceded to Gotabaya Rajapaksa. In a statement issued Sunday morning, he said: “At the conclusion of a hard-fought and spirited election campaign, it is my privilege to honour the decision of the people and congratulate Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa on his election as the seventh President of Sri Lanka.” 

Premadasa also announced his resignation from deputy leader of the ruling United National Party (UNP) with immediate effect. Following his announcement, two UNP ministers in the 30-member Cabinet also left their posts. 

At press time, Rajapaksa was enjoying a comfortable lead of over 800,000 votes. Cumulatively, Rajapaksa has so far secured 5.13 million votes or 51.62%, while Premadasa has won 4.23 million votes or 42.55%. Most districts were comfortably won by Rajapaksa, while the country's north and east provinces, dominated by minority Tamils and Muslims, were won by Premadasa. 

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Rajapaksa spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella urged party supporters to enjoy the victory peacefully and not to engage in any kind of violence. “We also need to analyze the entire voting patterns to make note of certain matters, particularly the north and east, and engage more rigorously in a productive manner in those areas,” he added. 

During his campaign, Rajapaksa stressed national security in the wake of attacks this Easter which killed more than 259 people, including foreigners. 

Rajapaksa also appealed to the majority Buddhist population, claiming credit for defeating the rebel group LTTE in 2009. His party is promising to maintain Sri Lanka’s Sinhala Buddhist character. 

His tenure as defense secretary was marred by controversy, with critics charging he had scant regard for human rights and dissent, a factor that kept most minority groups from supporting him.

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