Sri Lanka to investigate alleged coup attempt by outgoing president

Monday, January 12, 2015

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Image: Estonian Foreign Ministry/Presidential Secretariat of Sri Lanka.

The government of Sri Lanka are to investigate claims of an alleged coup by the outgoing president Mahinda Rajapaksa following his defeat in the recent presidential election by Maithripala Sirisena.

Mangala Samaraweera, aide to the new president, said yesterday at a press conference: "People think it was a peaceful transition. It was anything but". He went on to say "The first thing the new cabinet will investigate is the coup and conspiracy by President Rajapaksa".

Samaraweera also said the coup was unsuccessful due to the military not cooperating, saying the president "stepped down only when the army chief and the police inspector general refused to go along with him." Samaraweera alleged Rajapaksa wanted to deploy soldiers and police to halt vote counting after early results suggested he was unlikely to win the election.

Rajapaksa has strongly denied the allegations and Rajapaksa's media secretary Wijayananda Herat claimed the consultation with police and military leaders was only to instruct them to tighten the country's security measures. Ruwan Wanigasooriya, a spokesman for the country's military, told Agence France-Presse no attempted coup had come to his attention.

Following his election win, the new president gave a speech from the city of Kandy where he said he would protect the country's religious minorities: "While protecting the country's main religion Buddhism, we also protect the rights and freedom of Hindu, Muslim, and Catholic people in practicing their religion and create consensus among them to build up this country".

Sirisena also vowed to take on corruption in government: "I will take all the steps to eliminate corruption, loopholes, and bribes completely from this country". He also pledged to protect freedom of the press in Sri Lanka, stating he had ordered news websites to be unblocked by the country's Telecommunication Regulation Commission. Rajitha Senaratne, a member of the Sri Lankan Parliament who acted as a spokesman for Sirisena, also addressed the topic of press freedom during the election campaign, saying the government would investigate the killing of journalists and phone tapping would no longer occur.