By Lakmal Harischandra –
When President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (GR) delivered his inaugural speech in Anuradhapura, he acknowledged that it was the Sinhala Buddhist people who brought him to power while making a reference to the Tamils and Muslims who did not respond before the elections, to his appeal to join in his victory march. However, he stressed that he will be President of all and not just the Sinhalese. If past is anything to go by, and judging by the people around him ,how sincere GR is about this statement, is both doubtful and even hilarious. During the rule of the his brother President Rajapakse upto 2014 , both of them chose the easiest and safest path of communal politics trusting and expecting it to harvest the Sinhala Buddhist votes in the next presidential and/or general elections. This strategy appear to have worked at least for now, with the Sri Lankan electorate voting in, a majoritarian Head of State, thanks to the well-orchestrated Sinhala Buddhist campaign launched through grass root level networks and temples. Everyone who voted against GR are today branded as unpatriotic and even as traitors serving a foreign agenda. In that respect, DEM-Ocracy is having its’ last rites with State patronage.
GR’s remarks raised fears among the minority Tamils and Muslims who are already weighed down by apprehension of a return to anti-minority attacks by Buddhist extremists, which were rampant during the Rajapaksa regime. He said at the inauguration; ‘We knew right from the beginning that the Sinhala Buddhists of this country will be behind my victory. Although I knew I would be voted in by the Sinhala Buddhists, I expected the Tamils and Muslims to also be part of my victory. But my expectations were not met. Yet, as your new president I request you again to join hands with me for the future development of this country’. Besides, every single racist leader in the country are with him, so the minorities fear that the racists will have complete control over the next government. The Tamils specifically fear the new president’s nationalistic policies could mean renewed abuse of minorities, as the Tamil votes around the country went almost exclusively to his opponent Sajith. People who have not voted for GR are continuing to be apprehensive because a rather racist line is being pursued by the media and others who supported him. The celebrations too had a racist element to them. Even social media was flooded with posts accusing the Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese of casting “racist votes” by voting to his opponents. Abusive posts on social media were also directed against the Negombo Sinhalese Christians too who voted against GR in numbers.