Calling on an increasingly vocal political Opposition to engage in “civilised politics without misleading the public”, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said he was ready to don his former role as war-time Defence Secretary, a period that critics associate with repression and reprisals.
According to a statement from the President’s office, Mr. Rajapaksa speaking in the eastern Ampara district on Saturday, said: “People and Maha Sangha [Buddhist clergy] expect from me the role played by me as the Defence Secretary before I assumed Presidency. LTTE terrorists carried out a suicide bomb attack… targeting me. People are aware of the fate of the terrorist leader who led this attack,” referring to Velupillai Prabhakaran, who was killed by the Sri Lankan armed forces in 2009.
Stating that he was ready to play “either role”, President Rajapaksa said he would not “entertain lumpen politics”. His remarks come amid growing criticism from the country’s political opposition, over his government’s policies, especially its management of COVID-19.
The main Opposition party, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB or United People’s Front), has termed the President’s remarks “a threat” to its parliamentarian Harin Fernando, who recently made a scathing attack on the government in Parliament, blaming the President. Leader of Opposition Sajith Premadasa has said: “I will not let a strand of hair on Harin Fernando be harmed. From this day onwards, the President and the government should be responsible for his safety.”
Parliamentarian Mr. Fernando on Sunday sought police protection for his life, following President Rajapaksa’s remarks.