Sri Lanka presidential poll: Sajith Premadasa concedes defeat to Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Monday, 18 Nov, 2019

Sri Lanka's election commission on Sunday declared Gotabaya Rajapaksa of the Podujana Peramuna (People's Front) party the victor of the country's presidential election.

However, he lost the Tamil majority civil war affected Northern Province and the Muslim dominated Eastern Province with a vote percentage of 65 to 70 per cent.

Early vote count on Sunday showed that former wartime defence chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa was engaged in a close battle with his main political rival Sajith Premadasa in the Presidential elections.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be the President, not only of those who voted for me, but as the President of all Sri Lankans.

Pakistan's President Arif Alvi said in his congratulatory message: "We hope to continue working with you for the betterment of our people and to advance our shared interests of regional peace, stability & prosperity".

Mr Wickremesinghe's administration faced severe criticism for failing to prevent the attacks despite prior warnings from an intelligence agency of neighbouring India, according to findings of a parliamentary investigation. The election commission has said the final tally would be announced by Sunday evening. "I am so excited, he is the president we need".

Premadasa also said he was stepping down as deputy leader of the United National Party, led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Premadasa, the son of former president Ranasinghe Premadasa, who was assassinated by Tamil separatists in 1993, was more of an unknown for Sri Lankan voters.

Mr. Rajapaksa now faces multiple cases of alleged corruption - charges he has denied - and civil suits in the US for alleged torture of a Tamil, among others, during the Rajapaksa administration that spanned a decade from 2005.

But Gotabaya is adored by the Sinhalese majority and the powerful Buddhist clergy for how he and Mahinda ended the war in 2009, when 40,000 Tamil civilians allegedly perished at the hands of the army.

They are detested and feared by many Tamils, who make up 15 percent of the population.

Under his brother, Gotabaya changed into defence secretary and effectively ran the protection forces, allegedly overseeing "demise squads" that bumped off opponents, journalists and others.

Gotabaya has denied allegations that he received millions of dollars by way of kickbacks from a second-hand aircraft purchase from Ukraine in 2007. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on Sunday saying he looks forward to deepening bilateral ties with the new government. The Chinese have poured money into Sri Lanka, underwriting huge projects like the Hambantota Port, and they reckoned to have completed infrastructure projects worth over $10 billion.

Pakistan appreciates the conduct of a free, fair and peaceful election by Election Commission and the Government of Sri Lanka.

In view of the Presidential election, over 12,000 voting centres were set up across Sri Lanka. Gunmen purportedly shot at buses transporting Muslim voters in Anuradhapura district, 180 kilometers north of the capital, Colombo.

The Chairman, however, expressed regret that the candidates dragged religion into the election propaganda.