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Gotabaya vows Buddhist rule as he takes up Sri Lankan presidency

Updated 1600 GMT

Sri Lanka’s latest president Gotabaya Rajapaksa vowed to lead the government based on “Buddhist philosophy” and paid tribute to his Sinhalese voters, as he took up the office of president in an overtly religious Buddhist ceremony in Anuradhapura today.

In his address, Rajapaksa pledged there would be “state sponsorship to safeguard the traditional heritage of the nation” and spoke once more of strengthening security across the island.

“The Sinhalese, being the majority of this country voted for me en masse because they believe that I would prioritize national security concerns of this country," he 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.”

Dressed in all white and flanked by Buddhist monks, Rajapaksa had chosen to make the Ruwanmelisaya Buddhist stupa at Anuradhapura the site of his swearing in ceremony.  Sinhala legend claims the stupa was built by Dutugemunu, a Sinhala king that defeated the Tamil king Ellalalan in battle and ruled over the whole island under a single kingdom.

“I love my country,” Rajapaksa told the thousands of supporters and several international diplomats who had gathered. “I am proud of my country. I have a vision for my country. Hence, I called on everyone to join me in this journey.”

He went on to state that security would be his “the top most priority and the state security mechanism will be strengthened to protect our Motherland”.

Rajapaksa added,

"I also expect all our foreign friends to respect Sri Lanka’s unitary status and its people’s sovereignty. Sri Lanka with its rich cultural and religious traits, boasts the rich philosophy of the Lord Buddha, through which social justice, law-abiding nature, moral rights and values have been gifted to this Nation.

I myself having born in the deep south, studied at the most prominent Buddhist school in the country, Colombo Ananda College, which infused me with rich values of Sinhala Buddhist culture and its importance for well-being of the country. We should preserve this tradition-rich Sinhala culture as well as its age-old heritage. Our typical rural ancestral roots have to be nurtured and protected. All others who would love to live in unity have to be assimilated into this main socio-cultural basis of this country, based on rich Buddhist values, and as long as all of us jointly work as one nation, I vow to protect all of you in the country as the President for all of you.”

“The recently concluded elections saw the beginning of a new political culture in this country,” claimed Rajapaksa.  “The examples set would be continued in future activities of the government.”