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Gotabaya announces intention to run for presidency

Sri Lanka’s former defence chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was at the helm when state forces killed tens of thousands of Tamils, announced this week that he would run for presidency in upcoming elections.

In an exclusive interview with Reuters, Gotabaya said, he would stop the spread of Islamist extremism by rebuilding Sri Lanka’s intelligence services.

Desite Gotabaya's claims,  Sri Lanka’s defence expenditure has seen a steady increase since the end of the armed conflict in 2009.

Read more: Defence receives largest budget allocation

Gotabaya claimed the dismantling of the intelligence network and extensive surveillance capabilities he had built up during the armed conflict with the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Tamil Eelam, allowed for the Easter Sunday suicide bombings.

“Because the government was not prepared, that’s why you see a panic situation,” he said in an interview with Reuters.

Earlier this month Gotabaya was served with two lawsuits whilst on a trip to the US. One was for the torture of a Tamil Canadian who returned to Sri Lanka, and a second for the killing of well-known journalist Lasantha Wickrematunga.

Gotabaya told Reuters the claims were baseless and would be a “little distracton” to his election campaign.

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (centre) addresses troops in 2009, General Sarath Fonseka (right)

Gotobaya's military intelligence networks have been accused of white van abductions, extra judicial killings and torture.

In 2014, Ryan Goodman, Professor of Law and Co-Chair of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University School of Law called on the United States to prosecute Gotabaya Rajapaksa for war crimes, highlighting various laws that the administration may be able to pursue charges against the former defence secretary. 

Goodman stated that Rajapaksa, a US citizen, could face charges under the War Crimes Act of 1996, as well as coming under investigation from other agencies for immigration fraud and possible tax evasion.