Sri Lanka’s former defence secretary and a frontrunner in next month’s presidential elections, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has vowed to free all Sri Lankan soldiers that he claimed had been imprisoned on “absurd charges”.
Addressing a rally at Anuradhapura yesterday, Rajapaksa claimed that he had defeated “terrorism” and “a large number of soldiers who committed themselves to this cause have been falsely accused and put in prisons.”
“I want to say at this moment that on the morning of Nov. 17, all of them will be freed,” he declared.
Rajapaksa went on to state that Sri Lankan soldiers were “war heroes” who “saved the country”.
“We eliminated terrorism,” Rajapaksa claimed. "You do your duty on November 16 and thereafter I will undertake my duty to create a safe country.”
Gotabaya faces two lawsuits in the US, brought by survivors of horrific abuses including torture and sexual violence. He also oversaw the final phase of the armed conflict in 2009, that saw widespread rights abuses, including the shelling of hospitals and embargoes on food and medicine. Tens of thousands of Tamils were killed and many remain disappeared. Gotabaya stands accused of personally giving orders to execute those who surrendered.