Lieutenant Colonel Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa, RWP, RSP, psc, GR (Sinhala: ගෝඨාභය රාජපක්ෂ; Tamil: கோட்டாபய ராஜபக்ஸ; born 20 June 1949) is a Sri Lankan politician, technocrat, military officer, who is the current President of Sri Lanka. He served as Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development from 2005 to 2015 under the administration of his elder brother former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, leading the Sri Lankan Armed Forces to the military defeat of the Tamil tigers, ending the Sri Lankan Civil War.
Born to a prominent political family from the south of Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa was educated at Ananda College, Colombo and joined the Ceylon Army in April 1971. Following basic training at the Army Training Centre, Diyatalawa, he was commissioned as signals officer and later transferred to several infantry regiments. He saw active service in the early stages of the Sri Lankan Civil War with the elite Gajaba Regiment, taking part in several major offensives such as the Vadamarachi Operation, Operation Strike Hard and Operation Thrividha Balaya, as well as counter-insurgency operations during the 1987–1989 JVP insurrection. He took early retirement from the army and moved into the field of information technology, before immigrating to the United States in 1998. He returned to Sri Lanka in 2005, to assist his brother in his presidential campaign and was appointed Defence Secretary in his brother's administration. During his tenure the Sri Lankan Armed Forces successfully concluded the Sri Lankan Civil War defeating the Tamil Tigers and killing its leader Velupillai Prabhakaran in 2009. He was a target of an assassination attempt in December 2006 by a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber. Following the war, Rajapaksa initiated many urban development projects. He step-down following the defeat of his brother in the 2015 Presidential election. In 2018, he emerged as a possible candidate for the 2019 Presidential election, which he successfully contested on a pro-nationalistic, economic development and national security platform gaining a majority, from the predominant Sinhalese areas of the island. He is the first person with military background to be elected as President of Sri Lanka and also the first person to be elected President who had not held an elected office prior.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Military career
- 3 Post military career
- 4 Secretary Defence and Urban Development
- 5 Political activism (2015–2019)
- 6 Presidential campaign
- 7 Presidency (2019–present)
- 8 Honors
- 9 Personal life
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
Gotabaya Rajapaksa was born in Palatuwa in the Matara District, as the fifth of nine siblings, and was brought up in Weeraketiya in the southern rural district of Hambantota. According to a writer called Narada Karunthilaka, the name Gotabaya means "Abhaya, the Giant" or "Chinna Kotta" in the Jat language. He hails from a well-known political family in Sri Lanka. His father, D. A. Rajapaksa, was a prominent politician, independence agitator, Member of Parliament, Deputy Speaker and Cabinet Minister of Agriculture and Land in Wijeyananda Dahanayake's government. His elder brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa was first elected to parliament as a member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party at the age of 24 in 1970, who gradually rose through the party ranks becoming the Leader of the Opposition in 2001, Prime Minister in 2004 and the President of Sri Lanka in 2005. Two of his other elder brothers, Chamal Rajapaksa and Basil Rajapaksa, are also current Members of Parliament. He obtained his primary and secondary education at Ananda College, Colombo.
Rajapaksa joined the Ceylon Army as a Cadet Officer on April 26, 1971, when Sri Lanka was still a dominion of the British Commonwealth. Following his basic officer training at the Army Training Centre, Diyatalawa, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant on May 25, 1972, in the Ceylon Signals Corps. That year he followed the signal young officers course at the Military College of Signals, Rawalpindi. Thereafter he served with the Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment and the Rajarata Rifles, when he was transferred to the Gajaba Regiment upon its formation in 1983 with the amalgamation of the Rajarata Rifles and Vijayabahu Infantry Regiment. During this time he followed the Infantry company commanders course at the School of Infantry and Tactics, Queta in 1975 and attended the Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School, Assam in 1980. In 1983, he attended the Command and Staff course at Defence Services Staff College in Wellington in India, gaining psc and gained a master's in Defence Studies from the University of Madras.
On his return, he served as second in command of the 1st battalion, Gajaba Regiment with the rank of Major under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Vijaya Wimalaratne. The 1st Battalion was deployed to the Jaffna peninsula between 1983 and 1984 and again 1985 with the escalation of the Sri Lankan Civil War. He took part in Operation Liberation, the offensive mounted to liberate Vadamarachi from LTTE in 1987. In 1989 he was appointed commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, Gajaba Regiment and served till 1990, commanding it in Operation "Strike Hard" and Operation Thrividha Balaya. During this time he attended the advanced infantry officers course at the United States Army Infantry School, Fort Benning. Promoted to lieutenant colonel, he served as Coordinating Officer for the Weli Oya area from 1990 to 1991, before taking up an appointment as the Coordinating Officer of the Matale District during the 1987–1989 JVP insurrection. In 1991 he was appointed Deputy Commandant of the Sir John Kotelawala Defence Academy and held the position until his early retirement from the army in 1992.
During his 20 years of military service, Rajapaksa has received awards for gallantry from three Presidents of Sri Lanka, J.R. Jayewardene, Ranasinghe Premadasa and D.B. Wijetunga. These include the gallantry medals, Rana Wickrama Padakkama and Rana Sura Padakkama.
Post military career
Following his retirement, he read for a postgraduate diploma in information technology from the University of Colombo and joined Informatics, an IT firm based in Colombo as a Marketing Manager in 1992. He subsequently migrated to the United States in 1998 and worked in Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, U.S. as a Systems Integrator and Unix Solaris Administrator.
Secretary Defence and Urban Development
In order to assist his brother's Presidential election campaign, Rajapaksa returned to Sri Lanka from the United States in 2005. He obtained dual citizenship from Sri Lanka but kept his US citizenship. Gotabaya Rajapaksa was appointed to the post of Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence in November 2005 by newly elected President Mahinda Rajapaksa. In this capacity, he oversaw the military operation which eventually defeated the LTTE in May 2009.
With his position, Rajapaksa also pursued projects like the Colombo Beautification Project, which revitalized public centers and parks in Colombo, as well as many other development projects focused on places such as Battaramulla Diyatha Uyana, Ape Gama Park, Wetland Park, Nugegoda, Arcade Independence Square, Weras Ganga Park and Defence Headquarters Complex. In 2011, the Ministry of Defense was renamed to the Ministry of Defense and Urban Development, having absorbed responsibilities related to urban development. Results of his work were remarkable as Colombo became to the top of the list of fast developing cities in the world in 2015 by an annual travel study by MasterCard.
On December 1, 2006, at approximately 10:35 an assassin attempted to drive an explosive-laden auto-rikshaw into Rajapaksa's motorcade as it traveled through Kollupitiya, Colombo. The Sri Lanka Army Commandos guarding him obstructed the vehicle carrying the explosives before it reached Rajapakse's vehicle and two commandos were instantly killed. Rajapaksa escaped unhurt. The LTTE were blamed for the attack.
Gotabhaya is credited with using the Karuna faction effectively during the war to defeat the LTTE. The former LTTE commander Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan, better known as Colonel Karuna, told British authorities that Rajapaksa was instrumental in arranging for him to be issued with a false diplomatic passport so that he could flee to Britain in September 2007. These allegations were denied by the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama at the time, and later by Rajapaksa.
Criticism of United Nations and western countries
In June 2007, Rajapaksa was severely critical of the United Nations (UN) and of western governments. He accused the UN of having been infiltrated by terrorists "for 30 years or so", and as a result the UN was fed incorrect information. He also alleged that Britain and the EU were bullying Sri Lanka, and concluded that Sri Lanka "does not need them", and that they don't provide any significant amount of aid to the country. Ironically in 1990 his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa was caught attempting to bring evidence of human rights violations to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the evidence was confiscated by the government during which Rajapaksa justified foreign intervention in Sri Lankan affairs. The person that demanded western nations to limit and put conditions on foreign aid was also Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Human Rights Violations
On 3 February 2009, Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa stated to the international media (in reference to the only hospital in the war front being shelled), that everything is a legitimate target if it's not within the safe zone the government has created and that all persons subject to attack by the armed forces were legitimate LTTE targets as there are no independent observers, only LTTE sympathizers, radio announcements were made and movement of civilians started a month and a half ago.
As per wikileaks, General Sarath Fonseka who lead the war against LTTE had accused Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa of ordering at the end of the war the shooting of any LTTE leaders who might try to surrender under flags of truce. But Mr. Gotabhaya alleged to have threaten to execute Mr. Fonseka if he had spilled any war secrets.  
In an interview on the Sri Lanka TV channel Ada Derana on March 16, 2015, Mr Rajapaksa stated that he is a citizen of the United States but cannot travel to the United States because of alleged war crimes charges against him. However, Rajapaksa visited the United States in 2016 and two Tamil groups have urged the United States government to arrest and prosecute him. Sri Lankan government rejected to support the call to arrest Rajapaksa by Tamil groups.
As reported by The Sunday Leader, Major General Prasad Samarasinghe, the former military spokesman and director of the Directorate of Media in the army, has been passing highly sensitive information to the US Embassy in Colombo on abductions. Many of those abducted were believed to have been individuals who had fallen foul of the Rajapaksa trio, Mahinda, Basil and Gotabhaya. During her visit to the country, United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Navanetham Pillay expressed her disappointment over “white van” related disappearances reported in Colombo, and other parts of the country, which were not covered by the Commission of Inquiry on Disappearances set up by the government.
Investigations on the 2008 abduction of journalist Keith Noyahr resulted in a White Van being discovered in 2017 March from a house at Piliyandala with connections to an Army Major that was believed to have been used for the abduction. Police believes that the van may have been used for other crimes as well as being part of the operation to murder Lasantha Wickrematunge. A few weeks after the Keith noyahr abduction in 2008 Namal Perera a course coordinator at the Sri Lanka College of Journalism was violently attacked by a gang that came in the same White Van with a fake number plate and attempted to abduct him after attacking his car but was foiled by residents and heavy traffic. Namal Perera identified two of his would-be-killers Duminda Weeraratne and Hemachandra Perera in April 2017.
Bandara Bulathwattewas a key suspect in the murder of Lasantha was given a diplomatic post in Thailand at the request of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa near the 2010 presidential election. The letter sent bt Gotabhaya was prepared in haste and even a bio data of Bulathwatte was not attached despite it being a requirement for him to get his visa and have the appointment regularised by the foreign ministry. But after the elections, Gotabhaya requested his departure to be postponed claiming an urgent matter regarding national security. Technical evidence and telephone records have placed Bulathwatte at the location where Lasantha was killed as well as in the places where other journalists were attacked. Investigations on assassinations, abductions and assaults on journalist after the fall of the Rajapaksa government revealed that Gotabhaya directed a death squad to attack journalists that was outside the Army command structure during this time 17 journalists and media workers were killed and others were either assaulted or abducted.
Nadarajah Raviraj, a well-known human-rights lawyer and a parliamentarian, was shot and killed in Colombo on 10 November 2006. At a magisterial hearing in Colombo on 26 February 2016, Liyanarachchi Abeyrathna, a former police officer attached to the State Intelligence Agency, stated that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa paid Rs. 50 million to a terror organization led by Colonel Karuna to murder Mr. Raviraj.
Relationship with the media
Rajapaksa has been accused of threatening journalists on several occasions, including telling two journalists attached to the state-owned Lake House Publications that unless they stop criticising the armed forces "what will happen to you is beyond my control". When asked by the two journalists if he was threatening them, he replied "I am definitely not threatening your lives. Our services are appreciated by 99 per cent of the people. They love the Army Commander (General Sarath Fonseka) and the Army. There are Sri Lankan patriots who love us do and will do what is required if necessary." In April 2007 he was accused of allegedly calling the Editor of the Daily Mirror Champika Liyanaarachchi and threatening her, saying that she would escape reprisals only if she resigned. He was also accused for threatening to "exterminate" the Daily Mirror journalist Uditha Jayasinghe for writing articles about the plight of civilian war casualties.
In the editorial titled A brother out of control (August 16, 2011), The Hindu raised the observation, "President Rajapaksa would be well advised to distance himself swiftly from his brother's stream-of-consciousness on sensitive issues that are not his business. This includes an outrageous comment that because a Tamil woman, an “LTTE cadre” who was a British national, interviewed in the Channel 4 documentary was “so attractive” but had been neither raped nor killed by Sri Lankan soldiers, the allegation of sexual assault by soldiers could not be true. For this statement alone, Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa must be taken to task."
Deceased MP Sripathi Sooriyarachchi, assassinated journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge and others had accused Rajapaksa of corruption since 2006. In 2015 Interpol provided further evidence to the Sri Lankan government on corrupt military procurements. In March 2015 a Sri Lankan court imposed a travel ban on Rajapaksa over allegations he used a commercial floating armory as a private arsenal. The travel ban was lifted by the court on December 2016. His son is also accused of illegally occupying a house rented for a consulate in Los Angeles and caused millions of rupees in losses to the state. Rajapaksa rejected the allegations regarding occupying a house rented for a consulate in LA.
Political activism (2015–2019)
Alleged Assassination Plot
In September, 2018 Director of the Anti Corruption Movement revealed a conspiracy to assassinate President Maithripala Sirisena and former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa because the duo are against the drug trade. CID of Sri Lanka Police investigated the issue.
In April 2019 Ahimsa Wickrematunge the daughter of Lasantha Wickrematunge filed a lawsuit against Rajapaksa in the state of California. Rajapaksa, while on vacation in the United States was served notice of two civil lawsuits. In October 2019, the court in California rejected the case based on lack of jurisdiction to consider Wickrematunge's claims, because, in the Court's view, Rajapaksa is entitled to common law foreign official immunity for the alleged acts of torture, extrajudicial killing, and crimes against humanity.
It was widely speculated and even claimed by several politicians that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa would be contesting the 2020 elections. However, this was denied by Rajapaksa but claimed that he will accept if he was offered the candidacy.
In May 2019, former Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia in the Obama Administration, Robert O. Blake Jr. praised Rajapaksa on the management of the intelligence services during and post war. On 26 April 2019 he confirmed that he will be contesting the presidential election, following the deadly Easter Sunday bombings.
On 11 August 2019, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna led by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa announced that Rajapaksa will be their candidate for the 2019 Presidential election. Rajapaksa campaigned on a pro-nationalistic, economic development and national security platform in which he gained 6,924,255 votes, which was 52.25% of the total cased votes and 1,360,016 votes majority over New Democratic Front candidate Sajith Premadasa. Rajapaksa won a majority in the predominant Sinhalese ares of the island which included the districts of Kalutara, Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Monaragala, Ratnapura, Badulla, Kurunegala, Puttalam, Gampaha, Kandy, Matale, Polonnaruwa Colombo, Kegalle and Anuradhapura, while Premadasa gained a majority in areas dominated by Tamil and Muslim minorities, which had been effected by the civil war.
US citizenship row
During the campaign, several political parties including then ruling United National Party accused him of having American citizenship and claimed that he stayed and lived in America for more than ten years and revealed that he was not a Sri Lankan citizen. Gotabhaya was also pressured to not to contest at the Presidential elections because of holding dual citizenship. Further he was alleged to have carried a duplicate Sri Lankan passport with him and court cases were pending against him over the citizenship issue and the issue regarding his passport. Former President and the elder brother of Gotabhaya, Mahinda Rajapaksa was also accused of using his executive powers to grant his brother, the Sri Lankan citizenship after commencing his first term as President in November 2005. The judge of the Court of Appeal gave verdict on the former's pending court cases on 4 October 2019, dismissed the petition challenging Gotabhaya's citizenship. He was also allowed to contest at the elections but didn't take part in the debate among Presidential candidates which was held on 5 October 2019, was also historically Sri Lanka's first-ever debate to have been conducted among Presidential candidates for an upcoming election.
Formation of the new administration
The inauguration of Rajapaksa took place at the Ruwanwelisaya in Anuradhapura on 18 November 2019. It is the first elected-office Rajapaksa has held and he is the first non-career politician and former military officer to serve as president. Following assumption of the office of President, he announced in intentions to form a new government and taking over the portfolio of defence. On 19 November 2019, following taking over assumed duties at the Presidential Secretariat, he appointed Dr P. B. Jayasundera as Secretary to the President and Major General Kamal Gunaratne as Secretary of Defence, as well as a new Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On 20 November, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had agreed to resign for Rajapaksa to form a caretaker government until fresh parliamentary elections can be held after the President can constitutionally dissolve parliament in March 2020. On the same day, the presidential secretariat called for all provincial governors to tender their resignations. On 21 November, he appointed his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister following the resignation of Ranil Wickremesinghe and the day after appointed a 15 member Cabinet of Ministers. Thus, Sri Lanka became only the second nation in the world after Poland to have a combination of brothers taking charge as President and Prime Minister of a country at the same occasion.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa was conferred a Honorary Doctorate, a Doctor of Law from the University of Colombo on 6 September 2009, along with is brother President Mahinda Rajapaksa following public acclaim as a "war hero".
He is married to Ayoma Rajapaksa. They have one son, Daminda Manoj Rajapaksa, an engineering graduate of Duke University and University of Southern California, who works at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
- List of political families in Sri Lanka
- List of Sri Lankan non-career Permanent Secretaries
- Eelam War IV
- List of attacks attributed to the LTTE
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