Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to scrap War Crimes inquiry if elected

The UN estimates that some 40,000 people died under Mahinda Rajapaksa, the candidate’s brother. Gotabhaya is the frontrunner in the 16 November election.

Colombo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – If elected president of Sri Lanka, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa will scrap the inquiry currently underway into war crimes committed under his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime between 2006 and 2009. The presidential election is scheduled for 16 November.

Yesterday, at his first press conference after declaring his candidacy, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said that he would not continue the investigation into human rights violations perpetrated in the final months of the country’s civil war, when some 40,000 people died.

“Why are you talking all the time on the past? Ask (about) the future,” he said. “I am trying to become the president of the future Sri Lanka. So, if you concentrate on the future, it is better.”

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who is running for the Sri Lanka People’s Front (SLPF), is the front-runner, after the incumbent president Maithripala Sirisena, leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), chose not to run again.

During the civil war, he was the secretary to the Defence Ministry and is considered Sri Lanka’s strongman for defeating Tamil Tigers rebels in 2009 and restoring peace to the country.

Gotabhaya said that people need to move forward. However, his brother’s presidency still cast a long shadow on the country, with many allegations of war crimes.

In the past, the UN Human Rights Council called for action to shed light on the atrocities committed by both sides, the Sri Lankan military and the rebels. However, the former president has always rejected the charges against him, blaming instead the Tamil Tigers for using civilians as human shields.

In total, at least 100,000 people died between 1983 and 2009. Tamil survivors who live in former battlegrounds, have been demanding justice for years, not only for the victims but also for political prisoners and missing persons, and for the military to return land unfairly seized.