New Sri Lanka president declares pro Sinhala Buddhist policy

Sri Lanka’s newly elected executive president made it clear that his priority will be to serve the Sinhala Buddhist majority who were key to his victory.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa won the election with the massive backing of the Sinhalese who hail him as a war hero.

He was rejected outright by Tamils who want him to be held accountable for alleged war crimes committed when he was the powerful defence secretary in his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government that ruled the country for ten years since 2005. The newly elected president lost to his rival Sajith Premadasa, also in areas with predominantly Christian and Muslim voters.

“First and foremost, I am pleased to refer with respect to the honourable Buddhist monks from the four corners of this country, whose blessing was the greatest boost to this election victory. From the very beginning, I was aware that the key factor in this victory will be the majority Sinhalese of this country,” Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced after being sworn in as the country’s 8th executive president.

“Although I knew that I could win the presidential election with only the support of the Sinhala people, I made a special request form Tamils and Muslims to be shareholders of my victory. However, the response was not up to my expectations.”

Sinhala Kingdom

The swearing in ceremony was held in the 140 BC Ruwanweli Seya Buddhist temple premises in the ancient kingdom of Anuradhapura in north-central Sri Lanka.

According to Pāli epic 'Mahāvaṃsa', Ruwanweli Seya was built by Sinhala King Dutugemunu hailed from the south of the island, who gained control over the north-central region after killing the Tamil king Elara.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa paid his respects to a statue of Dutugemunu before his speech, which was broadcast on state television.

President Rajapaksa who also hails from southern Sri Lanka pledged to provide unhindered state patronage to the Sinhalese culture and Buddhist heritage. He also recalled that he comes from a Sinhala Buddhist family and is a product of the country’s leading Sinhala Buddhist school.

The Rajapaksa's are the first Sri Lankan family to produce two executive presidents. Gotabaya's brother Mahinda, who ruled the country for 10 years until 2015, is expected to be appointed as the new prime minister. 

Matale massgrave

The 70 year old president who described himself as the “executive president, commander in chief and minister of security” was flanked by commanders of the armed forces including his military era comrade and present army chief Shavendra Silva.

Lieutenant Colonel Rajapaksa served in the army for more than 20 years until he left for the US in 1992, where he became a citizen.

He and Lieutenant General Silva fought together in the Gajaba regiment that is accused of committing gross human rights violations in crushing the Sinhala youth uprising in the late eighties. Rajapaksa led a brutal counterinsurgency campaign to crush the southern uprising while working as the dictrict military coordinator in Matale, where the second largest massgrave was found in 2012.

'Kill the traitors'

One of the first official duties of the new president was to appoint another alleged war criminal Kamal Gunaratne as the secretary of defence.

Troops belong to 53rd division under Major General Gunaratne are accused of sexually assaulting and killing the female Tamil journalist Isaipriya, attached to LTTE media unit.

Following his retirement from the military, Gunaratne became one of the frontliners of right wing think tank Viyath Maga (Professionals for a Better Future), an organisation formed to back Rajapaksa's presidential bid.

Known to be an extreme Sinhala nationalist, Major General Gunaratne once called upon Sinhalese to kill those who want to adopt a new constitution that would devolve power to Tamils.☐



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.