Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa issued a chilling warning on Saturday, as he threatened to “bring back” his role as defence secretary and disparagingly spoke of how Sri Lankan security forces killed LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.
In response to a critical parliamentary speech by opposition MP Harin Fernando, Rajapaksa warned that he has “two faces”.
“I still get monks who tell me. We need the Defence Secretary Gotabaya and not the President Gotabaya. If I get it that way, I can also give it back that way.”
During his tenure as defence secretary, Rajapaksa oversaw a military offensive that bombed hospitals, restricted access to food and medicines, committed widespread sexual violence and killed tens of thousands of Tamils. Rajapaksa though, has repeatedly praised the military and has even defended the shelling of hospitals.
Speaking in Amparai on Saturday, he went on to state,
“Prabhakaran started his business when I was defence secretary. But I finisihed it in a way that had Prabhakaran carried on all fours like a dog in Nandikadal. I can brine that back as well. I’m a character prepared for anything.”
His remarks came in response to a speech by Fernando criticizing the regime and where he acknowledged Rajapaksa’s involvement in the Easter Sunday attacks.
“This country is cursed because this government is cutting down forest sanctuaries, because it is killing inmates in prisons, because it is inflaming tensions between religions,” he told Parliament.
“The truth about this conspiracy will one day be out because there is a God above. We know who maintained ties with ISIS. We know what happened.”
In a letter to the Police Chief after Rajapaksa’s remarks, Fernando argued it was his duty to speak freely on behalf of 2.8 million SJB supporters, “without being summarily executed”.
“This is my first experience of a political opponent trying to terrorize me into silence using fear and the threat of violence. Since I refuse to be silenced, if I am killed, I must assume it will be at the behest of the only man who has ever threatened to kill me”.
“I am painfully aware that many journalists, activists and Members of Parliament who criticized the President when he was Defence Secretary have since either disappeared or been assassinated,” he continued “In many of these cases, the attacks were preceded by implied threats or frivolous litigation initiated by politicians and officials including Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa.”
“As a career police officer,” he wrote in his appeal, “I trust that you do not want to be remembered as the IGP who oversaw the first assassination of a Sri Lankan Parliamentarian since the end of the civil war.”
Fernando’s letter was copied to the Speaker of Parliament, the Attorney General of Sri Lanka, and two UN special rapporteurs.
Read the full letter here.