Sri Lankan presidential election candidate and former defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa has vowed to increase powers given to military intelligence, as candidates vie for nationalist Sinhala Buddhist votes.
“We will give due powers to the intelligence officers and also the necessary legal cover to perform their duties,” Rajapaksa is quoted by AP as saying at an election rally this week. He also pledged to revive the “country’s crippled defence mechanism.”
“By doing so, we will rebuild a secured country where you can live without any fear,” he added.
Sri Lanka has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers to the North-East, with some regions having as many as one soldier for every two Tamil civilians. In addition, the military has consolidated its presence across the Tamil homeland, building more permanent military structures.
His vow comes on the heels of opposing candidate Sajith Premadasa stating he would instate former army commander Sarath Fonseka as head of national security.
Rajapaksa was Sri Lanka’s defence secretary, whilst Fonseka was head of the army, during the final phase of a 2009 military offensive that killed tens of thousands of Tamil civilians and saw hospitals bombed and widespread sexual violence.