Sri Lanka's new government on Sunday accused former President Mahinda Rajapaksa of having tried to stage a military coup to remain in power following Thursday’s presidential polls, which saw his chief rival and former minister Maithripala Sirisena elected president.
Mangala Samaraweera, a top aide of President Sirisena, told reporters that the coup was averted because the army chief “did not want to do anything against democracy at that decisive time.” This, he said, was despite orders from Mr. Rajapaksa and his brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, then the defence secretary to deploy troops to centres where the votes were being counted late on January 8. The new cabinet, to be sworn in soon, would initiate an investigation into the pre-dawn “conspiracy” as one of its first tasks, he added.
The allegations come just days after sections hailed Mr. Rajapaksa for “stepping down gracefully” and ensuring a smooth transition of power . “The truth is it was not a smooth transition of power,” said Mr. Samaraweera, who earlier served as Foreign Minister and is tipped to be a key member of President Sirisena’s cabinet.
When contacted, Army commander Lieutenant General Daya Ratnayake told The Hindu: “I have not seen those allegations yet, so I cannot respond.” Referring to earlier concerns over the army being deployed in the north and east to allegedly disrupt elections, he said: “You saw that there was no such incident. The transition was very smooth,” he said.
On whether Mr. Rajapaksa or his brother gave him orders to stage a coup, General Ratnayake said: “I can’t comment on that, it is very sensitive. You have to check with the politicians.” However, should the government initiate an enquiry, the army would cooperate in the process, he said.