- President Maithripala Sirisena seeking re-election is upset at Gothas Entry.
- Chamal Rajapaksha is upset and said he was a a contender.
Controversial former defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa declaring his intention to run for president this year has created sharp divisions within the opposition led by his elder brother Mahinda. Gotabaya’s public pronouncements this week were not taken by his other politically-ambitious brothers lying down, particularly former speaker Chamal who immediately responded saying he will was also be a contender.
Rajapakshas have openly said that future presidential candidates can only be from the Rajapaksha family.
A two term limit puts Mahinda out as the 19th Amendment says “No person who has been twice elected to the office of President by the People, shall be qualified thereafter to be elected to such office by the People.”
Mahinda Rajapaksha always wanted his son Namal to take over his leadership but the 19th amendment of the constitution has made him unfit due to his age, the 19th Amendment had raised the age limit for a presidential contender from 30 to 35 thus barring Namal from contesting the 2020 elections.
Party loyalists noted that President Maithripala Sirisena was most concerned about a Gotabaya entry into the fray as he had hoped to seek re-election with the support of the powerful Rajapaksa faction of the SLFP. President Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and went as far as to dissolve parliament following tacit agreement with Mahinda Rajapaksa to get his support in return at the 2019 presidential polls.
Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) general secretary Dayasiri Jayasekara, said the President was the SLFP candidate and that they had no intention of backing a common candidate. “President Maithripala Sirisena is the candidate as far as we are concerned,” Jayasekara told reporters on Friday. “Unless otherwise decided by the President, he will be the candidate.” Another SLFP stalwart, S. B. Dissanayake cautioned opposition politicians against speculating on a candidate. “It is best to keep quiet,” Dissanayake said when asked about Gotabaya’s entry.
Although Gotabaya directly suggested entering presidential elections only last week, he had launched his unofficial campaign in May last year at the Colombo Shangri La hotel. Several social media fronts of Gotabaya issued campaign slogans and memes this week launching “2020 Gota” ahead of his first trial before the special High Court in Colombo from Tuesday.
The first full-blown trial against Gotabaya starts at the High Court from Tuesday over allegations that he misappropriated over 40 million rupees in state funds to build a mausoleum for his late parents at Weeraketiya.
Gothas US citizenship
Gotabaya is still not qualified to become a candidate at Sri Lankan elections because he is yet to renounce his US citizenship. He has previously said it could be done within two months, but this week he told reporters that giving up the foreign nationality was a personal matter. He argued that Washington could not block him giving up the US citizenship and referred to the United States as the “father of democracy.” “A person cannot be tied to US citizenship,” he added.
However, diplomatic sources said there was a time consuming process to renounce US citizenship and that can be done only if there was no outstanding taxes and litigation against the person trying to renounce US nationality.