Rajapaksa’s brother returns to Lanka, keen to contest presidential polls 

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COLOMBO, April 12 (AGENCIES): Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa on Friday returned to the island nation and said he has taken necessary steps to denounce his US citizenship to be able to contest the presidential polls later this year. Former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya is being promoted as the main candidate from the Rajapaksa camp to face the next presidential election later this year as Rajapaksa cannot constitutionally run for a third term.

Gotabhaya, who is a dual-citizen of Sri Lanka and the US, returned to the country after a private visit to the US and said that during his stay in America he has taken the necessary steps to denounce the US citizenship.

“I have taken all necessary steps” Rajapaksa said, addressing reporters upon his return from the US.

Gotabhaya, who under his brother’s decade-old rule between 2005 and 2015 spearheaded the military onslaught against the LTTE, will have to renounce his dual citizenship to be able to contest the presidential election to be held between mid November and mid December this year.

While in the US, the presidential hopeful of the opposition party Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna Rajapaksa have been served notices charging him in two cases on torture and murder during war time. One of the cases was filed by the daughter of the editor of the Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunga while the other lawsuit was filed by a rights group on the behalf of a Tamil torture survivor, Roy Samathnam, who is a Canadian national.

Gotabhaya said both cases were politically motivated to deter him, from becoming the candidate.  Samathnam had claimed that in September 2007 he was held by the police’s Terrorism Investigation Division who was reporting directly to Gotabhaya in his role as the top bureaucrat in the defence ministry.

Samathnam has claimed he was psychologically and physically tortured by the Sri Lankan police and was forced to sign a false confession about his links to the LTTE who ran a bloody armed conflict in the north and east of Sri Lanka to carve out a separate Tamil homeland. The Sri Lankan editor’s murder in 2009 under Rajapaksa presidency was cited as a main human rights violation during which time Sri Lanka was termed as one of the worst places for journalism.

The editor’s daughter, Ahimsa Wickrematunga, is seeking compensatory and punitive damages against Gotabhaya for allegedly instigating and authorising  the murder of her father.

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