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19th-Nov-2019

Be a president of all Sri Lankan, not only for the Sinhalese

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A significant change has been made in Sri Lankan politics while former wartime defence chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa won a presidential election on Saturday defeating his rival Sajith Premadasa with a huge margin of vote. We do congratulate Mr Rajapaksa for this victory. Media reports said that Mr Rajapaksa was the clear victor in Sinhalese majority areas while Mr Premadasa scored better in the Tamil-dominated north. Mr Rajapaksa, who spearheaded the brutal crushing of Tamil Tigers a decade ago, however, promised to be a president for all Sri Lanka's races and religions. What's true is that he confirmed his election victory on the back of nationalist campaign in the wake of deadly Easter Sunday attacks allegedly by Islamic State groups in April that killed more than 250 people. Another factor was -- the new president is younger brother of veteran politician and former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.
There is a bitter side of politics in Sri Lanka, which is based on splitting ethnic communities.  The Muslim community, after the IS attacks in April last, has been passing their days in severe anxiety, though there was no revenge attack on them. It is speculated that triumph of Rajapaksa, who commands passionate support among many in the Buddhist Sinhalese majority, will alarm Tamil and Muslim minorities as well as human rights activists and journalists. The human rights groups and some journalists could be targeted for expressing concern about accountability for wartime abuses. However, after victory, Mr Rajapaksa made a call for national unity.  
Regaining public trust will be the main task of the new president. As a wartime commander Mr Rajapaksa was credited by many of his countrymen for bringing an end to the decade-old civil war. But what's unfortunate is that the fragile communal relation could be strengthened by none of the political party in the meantime. We hope the new president will show liberal attitudes to the minority communities. He will be the president of all.