Gotabhaya Rajapaksa

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Gotabaya Rajapaksa
ගෝඨාභය රාජපක්ෂ
Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa.jpg
Gotabaya Rajapaksa
Secretary to the
Ministry of Defence & Urban Development
In office
November 2005 – January 2015
PresidentMahinda Rajapaksa
Prime MinisterRatnasiri Wickremanayake
D. M. Jayaratne
Preceded byMajor General
Asoka Jayawardena
Succeeded byB.M.U.D. Basnayake
Personal details
Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa

(1949-06-20) 20 June 1949 (age 70)
Matara, Dominion of Ceylon
CitizenshipSri Lankan and American [1]
NationalitySri Lankan and American [1]
Spouse(s)Anoma Rajapaksa
RelationsMahinda Rajapaksa (brother)
Basil Rajapaksa (brother)
Chamal Rajapaksa (brother)
ParentsD. A. Rajapaksa (father)
Dandina Rajapaksa (mother)
Alma materAnanda College
Military service
AllegianceSri Lanka
Branch/serviceSri Lankan Army
Years of service1971–1992
RankLieutenant colonel
UnitGajaba Regiment
Commands1st Gajaba Regiment
General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University
Battles/warsEelam War I
Eelam War II
AwardsRana Wickrama Padakkama Bar.png Rana Wickrama Padakkama
Rana Sura Padakkama bar.GIF Rana Sura Padakkama

Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa), UoC

Lieutenant Colonel Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa, RWP, RSP, psc, GR (Sinhala: ගෝඨාභය රාජපක්ෂ; born 20 June 1949) is a retired officer of the Sri Lanka Army, a former Secretary to Ministry of Defence and Urban Development of Sri Lanka. After serving through the early parts of the country's civil war against the Tamil Tiger rebels, he retired from the army in 1992 and emigrated to the US. With the election of his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa as President of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was appointed Defence Secretary in November 2005.

As Defence Secretary, Rajapaksa played a key role towards the successes achieved by the Sri Lankan Military in defeating the Tamil Tigers and ending Sri Lanka's 26-year-long civil war in May 2009 with the political leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the military strategy of General Sarath Fonseka.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8] He was also one of the top targets of the Tamil Tigers, and survived an assassination attempt in December 2006 by a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber.[9]

Early life[edit]

Gotabaya Rajapaksa was born in Palatuwa in the Matara District,[citation needed] as the 5th of nine siblings and brought up in Weerakatiya in the southern rural district of Hambantota.[citation needed] According to a writer called Narada Karunthilaka, the name Gotabaya means "Abhaya, the Giant" or "Chinna Kotta" in the Jat language.[10] 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 in the politics being current Members of Parliament.

He obtained his primary and secondary education at Ananda College, Colombo.[11] He has also obtained a Postgraduate degree in Information Technology from the University of Colombo in 1992.[12]

Military career[edit]

Rajapaksa joined the Sri Lanka Army as a Cadet Officer on April 26, 1971, when Sri Lanka was still a dominion of the British Commonwealth. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant on May 25, 1972 and given his first command as an officer in the Ceylon Signals Corps after his basic training at the Army Training Centre, Diyatalawa. Thereafter he served with the Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment and the Rajarata Rifles before being transferred to the Gajaba Regiment upon its formation in 1983 with the amalgamation of the Rajarata Rifles and Vijayabahu Infantry Regiment.[13]

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.[14] He had followed signal young officers course in school of signals at Rawalpindi; Infantry company commanders course in Queta; Jungle warfare and counter insurgency course in Assam; Command and Staff course at Defence Services Staff College in Welington; and Advanced Infantry Officers course at Fort Benning.

He rose up the ranks in the military, serving as the second in command of the 1st Gajaba Regiment and latter commanding the 1GR from 1983 to 1990. He served in the battlefronts of Jaffna, participating in Operation Liberation, the offensive mounted to liberate Vadamarachi from LTTE in 1987. He also commanded the same battalion in Operation "Strike Hard" and Operation Thrividha Balaya in 1990. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel, and served as the Commandant of the Kotelawala Defence Academy at the time of his retirement in 1992. He subsequently migrated to the United States. Also, he worked in Loyola Law School[15] in Los Angeles, U.S. as a Systems Integrator and Unix Solaris Administrator.[16]

Secretary to the Ministry of Defence[edit]

In order to assist his brother's Presidential election campaign, Rajapaksa returned to Sri Lanka from the United States in 2005. He obtained a 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.

At the public acclaim as a "war hero," he was conferred Doctor of Letters by the University of Colombo on September 6, 2009.[17][18]

With his position, Rajapaksa also pursued projects like the Colombo Beautification Project, which revitalized public centers and parks in Colombo,[19] 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.[20][21][22][23] In 2011, the Ministry of Defence was renamed to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development, having absorbed responsibilities related to urban development.[24]

Attempted assassination[edit]

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.[9] The LTTE were blamed for the attack.[9]

Karuna link[edit]

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,[25] and later by Rajapaksa.

Criticism of United Nations and western countries[edit]

Gotabaya Rajapaksa during official tour of Brazil

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.[26] Ironically in 1990 his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa was caught attempting 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.[27][28]


Human Rights Violations[edit]

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.[29][30]

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.[31] [32] [33]

In an interview on the Sri Lanka TV channel adaderana 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.[34] However, Rajapaksa visited the United States in 2016 and two Tamil groups have urged the United States government to arrest and prosecute him.[35] Sri Lankan government rejected to support the call to arrest Rajapaksa by Tamil groups.[36]

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.[37][38][39]

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.[40] 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.[41]

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 a 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.[42] 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.[43][44][45][46]

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 policer 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.[47][48]

Relationship with the media[edit]

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."[49] 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.[50] He was also accused for threatening to "exterminate" the Daily Mirror journalist Uditha Jayasinghe for writing articles about the plight of civilian war casualties.[51][52][53]

A December 5, 2008 story from The New York Times quoted his news reporting position as "he insists that journalists should not be allowed to report anything that demoralizes the war effort".[54]

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."[55]

In 2015 May, The Sunday Leader tendered an unconditional apology to Gotabhaya Rajapaksa for a series of articles regarding the purchase of MIG 27 airplanes for the Sri Lanka Air Force.[56][57]


Deceased MP Sripathi Sooriyarachchi, assassinated journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge and others had accused Rajapaksa of corruption since 2006.[58][59] In 2015 Interpol provided further evidence to the Sri Lankan government on corrupt military procurements.[60][61][62][63] 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.[64][65] . The travel ban was lifted by the court on December 2016.[66] 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.[67] Rajapaksa rejected the allegations regarding occupying a house rented for a consulate in LA.[68]

From 2015[edit]

After the defeat of Mahinda in the 2015 Presidential elections, he was replaced as Secretary of Defence by B.M.U.D. Basnayake a day after the new President was sworn in.[69]

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.[70][71]

On 26 April 2019 he confirmed that he will be contesting the presidential election.[72]

In 2019 May, Former Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia in the Obama Administration, Robert O. Blake Jr. praised Gotabaya Rajapaksa on the management of the intelligence services during and post war.[73][74]

Alleged Assassination Plot[edit]

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 currently investigating the issue.[75][76]

U.S Lawsuits[edit]

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.

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]