Thursday, December 12, 2019 01:32:19 PM

Sri Lanka’s wartime defence chief launches presidential bid

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Sri Lanka’s former defence chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa waves after he was nominated as a presidential candidate during the Sri Lanka People’s Front party convention in Colombo. (Reuters pic)

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s main opposition party named a hardline former defence chief as its presidential candidate on Sunday, seeking to capitalise on public clamour for a decisive leader after deadly Easter day bombings.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 70, served under his older brother, ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa, and is widely seen as the frontrunner in a presidential election that must be held before Dec 9.

Gotabaya is immensely popular among Sri Lanka’s powerful Sinhala Buddhist majority, who credit him with ending the island nation’s 26-year-long civil war in 2009 and believe Colombo needs a seasoned hand after the April 21 Islamist bombings.

But critics say that during the civil war Gotabaya crushed the dissident Tamil Tigers with little regard for human rights, allowed abductions and gave consent to extrajudicial killings. He has rejected all the allegations.

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