Rajapaksa wins Sri Lanka presidency by big margin

Supporters of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa celebrate in Colombo on Sunday, November 17, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 18 November 2019

Rajapaksa wins Sri Lanka presidency by big margin

  • Former defense chief promises strong leadership to secure island of 22m people

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s former defense secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, was declared the seventh executive president on Sunday following the presidential polls held a day earlier.
The announcement was made by election commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya in the presence of all 35 contestants.
The brother of former president Mahindra Rajapaksa, Gotabaya — of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) — won 52.25 percent of the total votes, with Sajith Premadasa of the New Democratic Front (NDF) more than 1.3 million votes behind at 41.99 percent.
President designate Rajapaksa, who is slated to take his oath in the sacred city of Anuradhapura on Monday, said that he would strive to be fair and serve his countrymen without any political, racial or religious discrimination, and wanted to be the president for all Sri Lankans.
Reacting to the poll results, Premadasa said: “I express my heartfelt gratitude to all of our citizens who voted for me from all corners of the island. I am humbled that you placed your faith in me. Your support has been a fountain of strength throughout my 26-year-long political career.”
He added that it was a hard-fought and spirited election campaign and congratulated Rajapaksa on his win.
Following the announcement of the final results, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Non-Cabinet Minister of Digital Infrastructure and Information Technology Ajith P Perera and Minister of Telecommunications, Sports and Foreign Employment Harin Fernando all tendered their resignations from their portfolios, conceding the defeat of their party candidate Premadasa.
The executive director of People’s Action for Fair and Free Elections (PAFFREL) Rohan Hettiaratchi said there was a record turnout of 83 percent at the poll, and he described it as the most peaceful and lawful election in recent times, despite several incidents that were handled speedily and effectively by the police in cooperation with the Election Commission.
Indian Premier Narendra Modi was the first foreign leader to congratulate Rajapaksa, posting a message on Twitter: “I look forward to working closely with you for deepening the close and fraternal ties between our two countries and citizens, and for peace, prosperity as well as security in our region.”

Let us rejoice peacefully, with dignity and discipline in the same manner in which we campaigned.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Former defense secretary

Spelling out the reason for Rajapaksa’s victory, international political lobbyist and strategist Muheed Jeeran said that following the Easter Sunday bomb blasts in April, the people wanted security and sovereignty, and they knew that Gotabaya Rajapaksa could deliver these.
“The Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brand name went a long way for the grand victory,” he said.
Dr. H. M. Rafeek, former president of the Sri Lankan Expatriates in Jeddah and currently based in Colombo, said that Rajapaksa got such a massive majority of votes because people knew him as a “man of vision and innovation.”
“What he did during his tenure as defense secretary bears eloquent testimony to his devotion and perseverance,” he said.

China gives Hong Kong leader ‘unwavering support’

Updated 6 min 45 sec ago

China gives Hong Kong leader ‘unwavering support’

  • The city’s leader is in Beijing for an annual visit, and is set to meet President Xi Jinping later Monday
  • The past month had seen a lull in the violence and vandalism in the city, after pro-democracy parties won a landslide in local council elections
BEIJING: China’s premier told beleaguered Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Monday that she had Beijing’s “unwavering support” after a huge rally earlier this month and her government’s thrashing at recent local elections.

The city has been upended by six months of massive pro-democracy protests that have seen violent battles between police and hardcore demonstrators, as well as regular transport disruption.

Protesters have called for the unpopular Lam to stand down as leader, but Li Keqiang said Beijing would give “unwavering support” to her government to maintain the “long-term prosperity and stability in Hong Kong.”

“The central government fully recognizes the efforts you and the SAR (special administrative region) government have paid,” said Li, at a meeting with Lam in the Hong Kong Hall of the imposing Great Hall of People in Beijing.

He said Lam’s government had “tried its best to maintain social stability” amid “an unprecedentedly severe and complicated situation.”

But he also called for the Hong Kong government to “step up studies of the deep-seated conflicts and problems that hinder Hong Kong’s economic and social development” in order to restore calm to the city.

“Hong Kong is yet to get out of its plight. The SAR government must continue its hard work, stop violence and subdue chaos according to laws and restore order,” Li told Lam.

The city’s leader is in Beijing for an annual visit, and is set to meet President Xi Jinping later Monday.

At the meeting with Li, she said she was grateful for the premier’s “care for Hong Kong.”

The semi-autonomous city is ruled under the “one country, two systems” principle, which gives the territory rights unseen on mainland China — rights protesters say are steadily being eroded.

The past month had seen a lull in the violence and vandalism in the city, after pro-democracy parties won a landslide in local council elections.

A week ago, around 800,000 people marched peacefully through the city’s streets, urging the government to respond to their five demands — which include an independent inquiry into the police, an amnesty for those arrested, and fully free elections.

But public anger remains as Beijing and Lam show no sign of giving further concessions despite the election success.

This weekend the relative calm was broken by clashes between black-clad pro-democracy protesters and Hong Kong police in some of the city’s shopping malls.

And earlier this week an international panel of experts hired to advise Hong Kong on the police response to protests announced they were quitting, saying the watchdog was not fit for purpose “in a society that values freedoms and rights.”