Sri Lankan elections: a return to war time terrors

On the 17th November 2019, the results of the much-awaited Sri Lankan elections were announced, and Gotabaya Rajapaksa has claimed victory as the new president of Sri Lanka. Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the country’s Minister of Defence from 2005 to 2009 during the final stages of the Sri Lankan Civil War and played a large role in brutally defeating the militant group, the Tamil Tigers, in May 2009 and bringing the 26-year long conflict to an end. 

During the final years of the Sri Lankan conflict, Gotabaya acted as the de-facto head of the military under the Presidency of his brother, Mahindra Rajapaksa, and played a crucial role in planning multiple operations. He has since been accused by the US, the UN and several human rights organisations of committing severe war crimes whilst in power, and for having ordered the deliberate massacres, rapes, and abductions of thousands of innocent Tamil civilians. He has also been accused of ordering deliberate attacks on makeshift civilian hospitals that were built in areas that were declared to be ‘No Fire Zones.’ In the face of vast evidence proving grave human rights violations, Gotabaya and his brother Rajapaksa still deny any atrocities committed against civilians, and Gotabaya has already declared a rejection to any UN investigations in Sri Lanka.  

Despite these alleged crimes, the Buddhist nationalist candidate still managed to secure a winning majority within the Sinhala population, and as the Guardian and Al Jazeera have recorded, much of the Tamil population in Northern Sri Lanka remain in fear of potential racial tensions that may arise again. Within days of his victory, Gotabaya has already pronounced his brother, Mahindra Rajapaksa, as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, signifying a staunch return of the Rajapaksa regime, and many watch in panic of what is to come of an already ethnically-strained country. 

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Piriyanga Thirunimalan

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January 2022
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