Sri Lanka’s former president Mahinda Rajapaksa met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi this week, after he delivered a speech brushing off war crimes allegations as “false and malicious propaganda”.
Rajapaksa, who was accompanied on the trip by his son Namal, also met with other senior leaders including Rahul Gandhi, who heads the Congress Party and former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The former Sri Lankan president oversaw the massive Sri Lankan military offensive which concluded in May 2009 and killed tens of thousands of Tamils. Successive United Nations reports found that hospitals were shelled, surrendering Tamils were executed and upwards of 40,000 civilians were massacred. Rajapaksa though, delivered a speech in Delhi denying such human rights violations had occurred.
“Extravagant numbers reaching up to 40,000 have been recklessly bandied about as the alleged scale of fatal casualties,” he said. “This is false and malicious propaganda...the number of casualties, including terrorist casualties, would probably not have exceeded, 8,000.”
Invited by the Virat Hindustan Sangam, Rajapaksa told the gathering in New Delhi that Indian assistance was “vital” but he “remained unshaken in my conviction that foreign armies could not successfully banish terrorism from our soil”.
He also blamed “the manipulative dimensions of foreign powers and domestic forces” for his election defeat in 2015.
However, Rajapaksa still commands popular support amongst the Sinhalese masses, with his party sweeping local polls in the south of the island earlier this year. His Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party has, amongst other pledges, vowed to repeal the Office on Missing Persons, if re-elected.