Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the former defence secretary of Sri Lanka, was sworn-in as the island nation's seventh president for a five-year term on Monday, two days after winning election to the office by securing over 52 per cent of the votes cast. He replaces Maithripala Sirisena in the post.
The country’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya administered Gotabaya Rajapaksa the oath of office and secrecy in a complex which houses the ancient Buddhist Temple of Ruwanweli Seya in Anuradhapura.
Addressing the nation in the presence of his brothers Mahinda Rajapaksa (a former president) and Basil Rajapaska, Gotabaya Rajapaksa pledged to make national security a priority and to follow a foreign policy that was balanced and neutral.
"Sustaining the victory is more important than the journey towards it," Gotabaya Rajapaksa said in a tweet ahead of the swearing-in ceremony. He appealed to the minority Tamil and Muslim communities who have had reservations about him because of his alleged past political excesses, to rally around him.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa is credited with helping to end a nearly two-decade-long civil war between government troops and the insurgent Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Contesting as a candidate of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), Gotabaya Rajapaksa won the presidential election by securing over 52 percent of the votes cast, while his main rival and New Democratic Front (NDF) candidate Sajith Premadasa receiving about 42 percent of the votes, according to the Election Commission of Sri Lanka.
The overall voter turnout in the election was around 83.73 percent, Sri Lanka’s Chairman of the Election Commission Mahinda Deshapriya said.
Meanwhile, ministers of the previous Sri Lankan government which was led by President Maithripala Sirisena have begun submitting their resignations after the defeat of ruling party candidate Sajith Premadasa.
While Premadasa resigned on Sunday shortly after conceding to Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the 2019 presidential elections, Ministers Ruwan Wijewardene (Defence and Mass Media), Malik Samarawickrema (Development Strategies and International Trade), Mangala Samaraweera (Finance), Ajith P. Perera (Digital Infrastructure and Information Technology) and Harin Fernando (Sports, Telecommunications and Foreign Employment) are the latest to resign from their respective portfolios.
Several local media are reporting that pressure is building up on Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to resign as well, but so far, he has issued a statement extending his warm congratulations to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
The Prime Minister said that he hoped they both could reach a decision with regard to the next parliamentary elections following discussions with the speaker, party leaders and Members of Parliament belonging to the ruling SLPP.
Sri Lanka faces the prospect of a snap parliamentary poll after Rajapaksa took over as the country's president on Monday, the Indian daily New Indian Express quoted ruling United National Party (UNP) sources as saying.
The daily further said that the outgoing United National Party’s (UNP’s) parliamentary group is meeting on Monday to discuss the way forward. The next parliamentary poll is scheduled to be held after August 2020.