Six Days in November After The Swearing in of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the Seventh Executive President of Sri Lanka
By Sanjana Hattotuwa
The day after the 7th President was sworn into office, racism celebrated a new birth on Facebook. Across many pages that played a key role in President’s electoral bid, the message was simple and clear. Sri Lanka was for Sinhalese Buddhists only, and his victory ensured the country would remain thus. All Tamils were labelled terrorists. An electoral map of districts that voted for the President’s opponent was juxtaposed with a map of Eelam.
The implication, explicitly noted or implicitly projected, was that the opponent’s bid was to divide Sri Lanka and give the Tamils what the LTTE wanted. And because of this ingratitude, the suggestion was that the Sinhalese should inhabit these areas as well since nothing good would ever come from Tamils. The Sri Lankan flag was replaced by the Lion flag next to the Buddhist flag. Lions, in fact, dominated the images across these pages. In other pages, the Lion covered the entire map of Sri Lanka. ‘Lions are back’ proclaimed a notorious page supporting the new President, with an image of him and his brother on two ends, with a Lion in the middle.
In the background to the images of both men, maps of Sri Lanka covered by the Lion symbol. In more explicit posts, Hakeem, Bathiudeen and Sampanthan were called the f word, reminding them that the electoral result was an indication the Sinhala race wasn’t dead. Many pages congratulated the new President as the representative of the Sinhala Buddhists.
Hyper-conscious of public optics, the new President tweeted that “I am the President of not only those who voted for me but also those who voted against me and irrespective of which race or religion they belong to.” And yet, the racism on the pages continues in the same vein. All the posts are hugely popular.