(12 June 2018) United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka Atul Keshap has reportedly shattered the political ambition of former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to become the next President of Sri Lanka.
The US envoy who is scheduled to leave Sri Lanka shortly after having completed his term of office in Sri Lanka is reported to have told Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa that the US and Other western nations do not welcome the prospects of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa contesting polls and becoming president and are opposed to such a move.
The outgoing Ambassador dropped this political bombshell when he made a courtesy call to bid farewell to ex-president Rajapaksa on Sunday June 10th 2018.
Atul Keshap reportedly told Mahinda Rajapaksa directly that the USA and other Western Nations Are Not In Favour of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa Becoming Sri Lanka’s President.
He had bluntly told Mahinda not to field Gotabhaya as a presidential candidate.
The Jaffna based Tamil daily “Kaalaikkathir” (Morning Ray) of June 12th 2018 has in an exclusive report by a “special political correspondent” published as the lead story revealed details of the meeting between Rajapaksa and Keshap. The newspaper cites “Miha miha nambikkaiyaana vattaarangal” (very very trustowrthy circles) as the source of the news story. The newspaper is edited by senior Tamil journalist Nadesapillai Vithyatharan who earlier edited the Tamil newspapers “Uthayan” and Sudar Oli”. Vithyatharan is also the brother in law of TNA Jaffna district parliamentarian E.Saravanabavaan.The “Kaalaikkathir”editor is said to be one of the few Tamil journlists who intwract closely with Mahinda Rajapaksa.
According to details disclosed by the Jaffna daily the 90 minute meeting between Mahinda Rajapaksa and Atul Keshap had taken place on Sunday June 10th evening at the ex-president’s residence. The talks held cordially were on a number of relevant matters. Among these the most significant issue was about the possible presidential candidacy of ex-defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. “Kaalaikkathir” quoting very reliable sources said that the US envoy had in ‘clear,unambiguous and definite’ terms told Mahinda Rajapaksa directly that the western nations including the USA would not favourably regard Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa being nominated as a Presidential candidate.
The newspaper went on to say that Atul Keshap had reportedly stated the international community was looking forward to a person with political maturity and experience who could interact effectively within the sphere of democratic politics to be the leader of the country. The US envoy had emphasised that crushing terrorism with an iron hand and governance in a political democracy were two different things. Ambassador Keshap had bluntly told Mahinda Rajapaksa that the US and West were not in favour of a person like Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and would not welcome his contesting the presidency.
The “Kaalaikkathir” further reported that the US envoy had pointed out that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was required to renounce his US citizenship to be a presidential candidate as a dual citizen was Constitutionally debarred from contesting the Sri Lankan presidency. However the ambassador had reportedly said that US laws would not permit Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to renounce US citizenship at this juncture.He had stated that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa needed to clear himself of allegations against him over war crimes, crimes against humanity and human rights violations before the US would allow him to renounce US citizenship formally.It is only after he is cleared fully that the US would let him renounce citizenship and be eligible to contest Parliamentary or Presidential elections.
“Kaalaikkathir” does not say what Mahinda Rajapaksa’s response to the US ambassador was. However the newspaper speculates that Mahinda Rajapaksa would have been dazed as the US envoy’s pronouncements meant Gotabhaya Rajapaksa could not revoke US citizenship and contest the presidential election in the near future.
The 19th Constitutional amendment forbids a dual citizen from contesting Parliamentary or presidential elections. Former UPFA Galle District MP Geetha Kumarasinghe was unseated as a result because she was a dual citizen of Switzerland and Sri Lanka. Ex Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is a citizen of Sri Lanka and the USA. He had however said that he would renounce his US citizenship if selected as a Presidential candidate. The US ambassador however seems to have ruled out the possibility of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa being able to renounce his US citizenship at the present time as the ex – defence secretary’s name has transpired in allegations of War crimes, crimes against humanity and violation of human rights.
Although an orchestrated campaign was launched in support of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s presidential candidacy no definite decision was taken by the opposition groups supportive of Mahinda Rajapaksa as the ex-president did not give the green light for his sibling to contest. One of the reasons attributed for this was perceived opposition within the Rajapaksa family circles to Gota being the presidential candidate.
In recent times there have been media reports that the Rajapaksa clan had arrived at a united decision and that the common Joint opposition candidate at the next Presidential poll would be Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. It is against this backdrop that outgoing US envoy Atul Keshap has reportedly dropped a political bombshell possibly destroying Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s hopes of being the 7th President of Sri Lanka.