Former Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Sunday announced his young brother and former Defence Secretary Gothabaya would run for the presidency as candidate of his newly formed Sri Lanka Podujana Perumuna ( Sri Lanka People's Party). The elections are scheduled for later this year. Gotabhaya, 70, headed Mahinda's military campaign against 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. Besides naming Gotabhaya as the presidential candidate, Mahinda additionally took over the leadership SLPP, the new political party formed by his family.He thus ended his long association with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) of which he had been a member since the mid 1960s and on which ticket he won twice as President of the country from 2005 to 2015.
Gothabaya, was a dual citizen of Sri Lanka and the US and yet as Defence Secretary, he led the war against the LTTE which ended in its decimation 2009 and resulted in the death of 40,000 civilians. Mahinda decided to field Gothabaya to tackle the Islamist terrorism which surfaced with the Easter Sunday bombing in churches which killed over 250 people. Addressing a gathering in Colombo where he made the announcements.,Mahinda said Gothabaya was the man to tackle the new threat.
Gothabaya said: “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.” Anticipating his candidature of the SLPP for the presidency, Gothabaya renounced his US citizenship two weeks ago as new Art 19(A) of the Constitution bars foreigners running for the office.An earlier amendment has curtailed the term of the President to two. Mahinda,who has already completed two terms, has therefore decided to field his brother.
In Mahinda'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 Mahinda's presidency in 2009. Almost every member of the Rajapaksa family has corruption cases pending.“The passage of time has cleared us of charges”, Mahinda 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.