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Sri Lanka president-elect Rajapaksa a war hero to some, a polarizing figure for others

Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected president of Sri Lanka on Sunday, amid concerns over election security. For the majority population of Sinhalese Buddhists, Rajapaksa is well-positioned to take on the task of defeating enemies such as those responsible for the horrific Easter Sunday attacks earlier this year. However, he is accused by other populations for war crimes and the torture and death of hundreds of people during the war against Tamil Tigers in 2009. Rajapaksa, now 70 years old, vowed to crack down on religious extremism, the driving factor behind the Easter Sunday attacks that killed more than 250 people. Rajapaksa plans to rebuild Sri Lanka’s intelligence cells and surveillance networks, claiming that the previous administration poorly managed the security arms of the state under international pressure.

Sri Lankan Muslims are fearful of Rajapaksa’s presidency after facing hostility from Sinhalese Buddhists since the Easter Sunday attacks. Rajapaksa, a former US citizen and veteran, offers a “technocratic” and militaristic-style government. Rajapaksa addressed Sri Lankans’ concerns over war crimes during his time as defense secretary by urging citizens to focus on the future rather than the past.

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OODA Analyst

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