A former defense secretary in Sri Lanka has been nominated as the opposition candidate for president.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa is the brother of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. He was named the candidate for the opposition nationalist SLPP party.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa served as defense secretary during the government’s campaign to end a 26-year-long civil war. The campaign against the Tamil Tigers rebel group ended in 2009. The group had fought for an independent state for the ethnic minority Tamil people.
The government’s military was criticized for carrying out widespread human rights abuses. A United Nations report said about 45,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final months of fighting.
Mahinda Rajapaksa is known for leading the country to victory over the rebels. His 10-year term as president ended in 2015.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been accused of using extrajudicial methods during the campaign to end the civil war. He has also been accused of seeking to silence his critics and for misusing government money.
The 70-year-old candidate has promised to battle “extremist terrorism.” A terrorist attack struck Sri Lanka in April. The Easter Sunday bombings killed more than 250 people. Sri Lankans were angered by the government’s inability to prevent the bombings.
This week, Mahinda Rajapaksa announced his brother’s candidacy to a group of supporters in the capital Colombo.
“I thought of a man who is sought by the country’s history to build a future,” the former president told the gathering. “Whether I chose or not, he has become your brother, whether I chose him or not, he has already won your hearts,” he added.
Many consider Gotobaya a hero for his military efforts. Supporters see him as someone who could be a strong national leader. But he does not enjoy support among minority groups or victims of human rights abuses.
The youngest brother of Gotabaya and Mahinda is Basil Rajapaksa. He is founder of the SLPP party. He recently told reporters the Sri Lankan people had “requested a leader who can ensure their security.”
Gotabaya is a U.S. citizen. He says he has begun the process of giving up his American citizenship because Sri Lankan law does not permit political leaders to hold citizenship in two countries.
However, Gotabaya faces two court cases against him in Los Angeles, California. Torture victims and the daughter of a reporter killed in Sri Lanka in 2009 brought the charges.
Gotabaya has denied the accusations and his spokesman says the cases were brought for political purposes.
A final date for the presidential election has not yet been set. But the voting is expected to be held before December 9.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
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Words in This Story
ensure – v. to make sure something is done of happens