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‘In the south, hopes on Gotabaya run high’ - The Hindu

With less than a week to go until Sri Lanka’s presidential elections, in the Sinhala south of the island, former defence secretary and front running candidate Gotabaya Rajapkasa, has widespread popularity, reports Meera Srinivasan for The Hindu.

Writing ahead of the elections, Srinivasan says,

“In the island’s southern hinterland, almost every local, including those supporting Mr. Gotabaya’s main opponent Sajith Premadasa, assert that “a majority here will vote for Gotabaya”. Past election results are proof enough for that sentiment. Even in 2015, an election that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa lost, most of the southern districts gave him over 60% of the vote share. Historically a stronghold of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s former Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the southern belt seems to have readily embraced his newly-formed the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP or People’s Party).”

In her piece, she interviews several Sinhala voters, including daily-waged labourer D.M. Jayaratne who said Gotabaya was a strong leader that would not “give into Tamil demands” for war-time accountability and self-rule.

Sepalika Harshani, a 29-year-old voter who attended Rajapaksa’s rally in Wellawaya on Saturday, said “I would be very happy if someone like him becomes President of this country”. 

Referring to the final phase of the armed conflict in 2009, where tens of thousands of Tamils were killed by the Sri Lankan military, she added that Rajapaksa “got us freedom”. 

Read more from The Hindu here.