Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa addressed the Tamil diaspora when questioned about war crimes committed by troops under his command, stating that they should “forget about these things”.
In his first interview since being elected, Rajapaksa spoke with Bharat Shakti’s Nitin A. Gokhale, where he dismissed reports that Sri Lankan soldiers had committed rights abuses. “War is not a rosy thing,” Rajapaksa claimed. “And everything doesn’t go very smoothly, you know. But we are a poor country, you know. We are a lesser power. So our things are highlighted more. The big powers can cover-up.”
He went on to dismiss calls for accountability, stating that, “I like even the Tamil diaspora to forget about these things”. “Nobody is benefitted out of this,” he added. "Nobody will.”
The new Sri Lankan president also sent a veiled threat to “the minority community” to cease pursuing justice and accountability for rights violations. Rajapaksa said that if those in the “minority community… do certain things which will create suspicion in the minds of the majority community, only then the majority community will react”.
“They have to understand that,” he emphasised. “They have to understand it. Everybody is a Sri Lankan citizen, born in Sri Lanka. They have equal rights. But they should not do certain things. They have to understand the reality when there is a… it is whether, however… society moves forward and advance. Even in the so-called advanced societies, these problems are there. So we have to understand that and live.”
He also claimed that it was “very unfair” to accused Sri Lankan troops of human rights violations, “because as a nation… I mean we are Buddhist, we are a very peaceful nation”. “We were living, our history is so, thousands of thousands of years it goes back to and have our own values,” he added.
When questioned about his image as an authoritarian, Rajapaksa took aim at the press saying, “I want to tell especially the international media don’t go by heresy or don’t go by rumours”.
"And don’t propagate these things. Understand me. Speak to me. Meet me. And see how I’m doing. How I work. And give the correct picture. This is a small country, developing country. The people should help us. Not to put obstacles in my way.”