Gotabaya Rajapaksa sworn in as President of Sri Lanka

Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Monday was sworn in as the Sri Lankan president a day after he was declared the winner in the closely fought election in Sri Lanka.

Rajapaksa, who is the first retired military officer to assume the top office, appealed to minority Tamils and Muslims to rally around him.

Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya administered the oath of office to Rajapaksa at the 140 BC Ruwanweli Seya Buddhist temple in the ancient kingdom of Anuradhapura in north-central Sri Lanka.

In his address to the nation, he also pledged to give national security priority and follow a neutral foreign policy.

“The main message of the election is that it was the Sinhala majority vote that allowed me to win the presidency,” the 70-year-old leader said.

“I knew that I could win with only the votes of the Sinhala majority. But I asked Tamils and Muslims to be a part of my success. Their response was not what I expected. However, I urge them to join me to build one Sri Lanka,” he added.

“The country faces a huge debt burden that the outgoing president inherited from Gotabya Rajapaksa’s brother and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Fernandez said that the “debt repayment is quite crushing”.

“Sri Lankans are looking forward to the same efficiency of management, as many people we spoke to pointed out, the way Gotabaya ended the war. They are hoping that he approaches the economy and other issues with the same single-minded drive. And he produces results.”

Rajapaksa defeated the ruling United National Party (UNP) candidate Sajith Premadasa, securing 52.25 percent of the vote in Saturday’s election.

The 70-year-old leader popularly known as Gotabaya campaigned on the plank of security and economic revival. He has promised to fight corruption and make Sri Lanka safe seven months after deadly Easter Sunday attacks blamed on Muslim groups.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa is the younger brother of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and the two nationalist leaders had given the military a free hand to crush the Tamil separatists and end a 26-year civil war in 2009.

The Rajapaksa brothers are popular with the Sinhalese majority and the powerful Buddhist clergy.

A former lieutenant colonel in the army, Rajapaksa plans to rebuild the security arms of the state, including its intelligence cells and surveillance networks that he says the outgoing administration dismantled under international pressure.

Rajapaksa has been dubbed as the “Terminator” by even his own family, and critics say the 70-year-old leader should be tried for war crimes over allegations of killings, torture and forced disappearances during the final stages of the war against the Tamil rebels in 2009.

He faces a couple of civil suits against his name in the United States.