“It is not my statement. It is in fact Mahinda’s. I just repeated that if he was capable of doing such a computer jilmaart to top the district preference votes, he may have done something similar to that computer jilmaart to become the top in the country as well.”
After Mahinda lost the 2015 Presidential elections, the American newspaper named The New York Times published an article in 2018 titled How China Got Sri Lanka to Cough Up a Port in which it claimed that China Harbour Engineering Company, a Chinese port constructing company, paid $7.6 million to Mahinda Rajapaksa for his 2015 Presidential elections campaigning. The report also claimed that Yi Xianliang, who, in 2015, was serving as the Chinese ambassador to Sri Lanka, tried to influence the elections in Mahinda’s favour to further China’s ambitions in Sri Lanka. According to The New York Times report, out of the $7.6 million, Mahinda bought merchandise and printed t-shirts for his election campaigning, which cost him $6,78,000. He also purchased gifts worth $2,97,000 for his supporters. According to the article, $38,000 was paid by Mahinda to the Buddhist monks who supported his Presidential bid. Reportedly, he distributed cash worth $1.7 million among the Sri Lanka Freedom Party’s volunteers. Talking about The New York Times article, Mahinda, during an interview, said that the article was an attempt of the United National Party (UNP) to malign his image. He said,
“If any election campaign contributions had been made to me by China Harbour Co, the Port City contract would not have been restored to them and neither would they have been allowed to bid for the lease of the Hambantota harbour. The NYT writer has stated that they had obtained some of the details in that article from a Sri Lankan government investigation. Every Sri Lankan knows that the main preoccupation of this government since it came into power has been to sling mud at the opposition.”
In 2018, the Colombo International Container Terminals Limited (CICT), a joint venture between Sri Lanka and China, contradicted Mahinda’s claims and said that the CICT deposited Rs 20 million into his sister-in-law’s bank account.
• Alleged plotting of a journalist’s kidnapping: In 2018, the Sri Lankan Criminal Investigations Department (CID) reportedly visited Mahinda Rajapaksa’s residence and questioned him about Keith Noyahr, a Sri Lankan journalist, who was kidnapped in 2008. According to the CID, Mahinda received several calls from two suspects of the kidnapping, Karu Jayasuriya and Lalith Alahakoon, a few hours before Keith was released; however, Mahinda denied the allegations and claimed that he never received any calls from the suspects. Giving the details about his kidnapping, Keith, in the Supreme Court, said,
“While serving as Deputy Editor of The Nation in 2008, I had published a series of articles flagging weaknesses in the government and military. A day after these articles were published, while I was travelling towards the University of Colombo, I noticed that I was being followed by Army jeeps and had to escape them by entering the university premises. On the same night, an armed group who arrived in a white van had beaten, blindfolded and abducted me. I was beaten throughout the journey in the van and was questioned on whether I had any links with the LTTE. After which I was taken to an unknown location, stripped, suspended mid-air and beaten once again.”
• Accusations of violating human rights during the war against LTTE: According to WikiLeaks, in 2010, Patricia A. Butenis, the then US ambassador to Sri Lanka, exchanged some messages with the Pentagon in the United States in which she alleged that the massacre of the Tamil population, a minority in Sri Lanka, was massacred by the government troops on the orders of the Mahinda-led administration. She also claimed that after the war with LTTE was over in 2009, many surrendered LTTE rebels were shot and killed by the authorities on the directions of Mahinda. Talking about the messages, during an interview, she said,
“There are no examples we know of a regime undertaking wholesale investigations of its own troops or senior officials for war crimes while that regime or government remained in power. In Sri Lanka this is further complicated by the fact that responsibility for many of the alleged crimes rests with the country’s senior civilian and military leadership, including President (Rajapaksa) and his brothers and opposition candidate General Fonseka.”
In 2009, after the allegations of rampant human rights violations in Sri Lanka, Ban Ki-moon, the then Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) established a task force to conduct independent and thorough investigations into the allegations. In 2011, the task force submitted its report to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and claimed that during the civil war in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan military actively targeted and bombed the places where civilians resided. The report also claimed that the civilians, who were stuck in the war zones and could not make it to government-designated safe zones, were denied any type of help or assistance from the government. As per the report, during the Sri Lankan civil war, more than 40,000 civilians were killed and many were wounded. Reportedly, when the UNHRC questioned the Mahinda-led administration about the human rights violations in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan government came up with its version of the report to counter the claims of the UNHRC. In 2011, a United Kingdom-based media channel named Channel 4 News wrote an article titled “The Sri Lankan soldiers whose hearts turned to stone.” Through their article, they accused the Sri Lankan Armed Forces of blatant violations of human rights in Sri Lanka during the war against LTTE. The media house even mentioned the claims made by a retired officer of the Sri Lankan Army who said that during the civil war, the Sri Lankan military conducted counter-insurgency operations in the country without having to answer the government and violated human rights. During an interview with Channel 4 News, the retired Sri Lankan Army officer said,
“When I look at it as an outsider I think they’re simply brutal beasts. Their hearts are like that of animals, with no sense of humanity. If they wanted to rape a Tamil girl, they could just beat her and do it. If her parents tried to stop them, they could beat them or kill them. It was their empire. For the soldiers at the battlefront, their hearts had turned to stone. Having seen blood, killings and death for so long, they had lost their sense of humanity. I would say they had turned into vampires.”
In its 2012 documentary titled Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields, Channel 4 News claimed that according to revelations made by the whistleblowers in Sri Lanka, after the civil war ended in 2009, the Sri Lankan authorities found the mortal remains of many LTTE female rebels, who were either tortured or sexually assaulted by government troops before killing them. The Sri Lankan government released a statement in which it denied playing any role in the violations of human rights in Sri Lanka. The government also said that the atrocities were committed by the LTTE rebels and not the Sri Lankan Armed Forces.
• Allegations of siphoning funds and indulging in corrupt practices: According to several sources, Mahinda Rajapaksa has time and again been accused of accepting bribery and misusing funds. In 2012, according to a report published by the Transparency International Corruption Index (TICI), Mahinda embezzled funds worth Rs. 3,000,000,000 from a roadways project for a personal exhibition. In 2015, the state-owned Independent Television Network (ITN) also accused Mahinda of being the reason behind the ITN incurring massive losses after he refused to pay the media house for broadcasting his 2015 Presidential elections campaign commercials. In the same year, President Sirisena constituted a Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCI) with four judges of the Sri Lankan High Court in it. The PCI was tasked with investigating the allegations levied by the ITN against Mahinda. In his defence, in 2015, Mahinda challenged the appointment of four judges of the High Court in the PCI at the Court of Appeals in Sri Lanka. Talking about it, Mahinda’s lawyers said,
“We have objected to the functioning of the commission and that it was unconstitutional to make this commission as four serving High Court judges could not be appointed to carry out other duties such as functioning as members of the commission.”
The Court of Appeals, in its judgement, upheld the appointment of four High Court judges and stated that the President reserves the right to appoint judges of a court in the PCI. In its judgement, the court said,
“Under the Article 110 of the Sri Lankan Constitution, the President can appoint High Court judges for other duties. There is no mention in the Constitution that High Court judges cannot be appointed to the commission.”
On 13 January 2015, a complaint was lodged against Mahinda, Gotabaya, and Basil, over their alleged role in accepting bribery while signing deals with the Chinese. The complaint was lodged against the brothers by the Sri Lankan political party named Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) at the Bribery and Corruption Commission (BCC). Talking about it, the spokesperson of JVP said,
“The main objective of our complaint is to ensure that the Mr Rajapaksa family is brought to justice. We want to prevent them from fleeing the country and escaping justice. A total of 12 individuals have been named in the complaint as alleged offenders including former finance secretary Punchi Banda Jayasundera and ex-central bank governor Nivard Cabraal. They have been accused of foreign exchange fraud, land grabs and misusing state property.”
On 16 January 2015, after JVP’s complaint, President Sirisena constituted an SIT to investigate the allegations levied on the Rajapaksa brothers and till the time the investigations were being conducted by the SIT, Sirisena suspended the deals signed between the Rajapaksa-led Sri Lankan government and the Chinese government. In February 2015, the then Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Ranil Wickremesinghe established the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID), which was tasked to investigate the cases of corruption that took place during the reign of the Rajapaksa-led Sri Lankan government. A few months after the creation of the FCID, the former Minister of Economic Development and the younger brother of Mahinda Rajapaksa, Basil Rajapaksa, was arrested on the charges of playing a part in laundering $ 5,30,000. Talking about his arrest, during an interview, Basil said,
“They have no evidence. They are making wild allegations. This is a witch hunt. Neither I nor any member of my family has ill-gotten money.”
Several Sri Lankan media sources claimed that after the declaration of the results of the 2015 Sri Lankan Presidential elections, the Sri Lankan Air Force issued a notification in the gazette of Sri Lanka in which it claimed that Mahinda along with his family members and close associates used the helicopters operated by the airforce for their personal use. The airforce also claimed that Mahinda spent $17,300 (Rs. 2,278,000) of taxpayers’ money to travel in the airforce’s helicopters for his Presidential election campaigning. After Mahinda lost the 2015 Presidential elections, the UNP accused him of siphoning approximately $5.31 billion (Rs 700 billion) outside Sri Lanka with the help of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL). On 8 January 2015, the UNP-led Sri Lankan government constituted a task force, which was tasked with tracing the money laundered by the Rajapaksa family during their rule over the country. Cabinet Secretary Rajitha Senarathne, during an interview, said
“You all know about this black money and these hidden foreign assets. We are aware of these. We will provide all the information, whatever is available to us, to a special investigation unit. The government has information that some of the black money belongs to big people who were very powerful in the hierarchy of the previous government.”
• Allegations of attempting to retain power with the help of the military: After Mahinda Rajapaksa lost the 2015 Presidential elections in Sri Lanka, Athuraliye Rathana Thero, a former Sri Lankan member of parliament, accused Mahinda of attempting a coup in Sri Lanka with the help of the Sri Lankan military to retain his Presidency. Following Thero’s allegations, two more MPs, Rajitha Senaratne and Mangala Samaraweera, accused Mahinda of visiting the then Sri Lankan Army chief Jagath Jayasuriya to persuade him to join Mahinda in the coup; however, according to Rajitha and Mangala, the army chief denied Mahinda’s request and refused to be a part of the coup. The duo also claimed that not only did Mahinda attempt to influence Jagath Jayasuriya but also tried to gain the support of the former Attorney General of Sri Lanka and asked him to declare an emergency in Sri Lanka, which would make the coup easy. After the allegations of the coup, President Maithripala Sirisena established a task force to investigate the allegations following which the UNP-led Sri Lankan government also accused Mahinda of ordering his supporters to capture the polling booths in Sri Lanka during the 2015 Presidential elections. Talking about it, the spokesperson of the UNP, during an interview, said,
“We have credible information that the Army Commander, Police Chief and Attorney General were called to the Temple Trees at 1.00 a.m. on Friday and checked with them a way to stop counting of votes immediately when the two knew that they were losing the election. Fortunately, the Army Commander and the IGP have told Mahinda and Gotabaya in no uncertain terms that they could not be a party to this illegal attempt and not ready to give unlawful orders to men under their command. Attorney General has said the illegal and unconstitutional action will have extremely dangerous repercussions. The modus operandi of the two brothers was to grab power through a military coup. The people of this country and the global community should know this.”
In 2015, former Sri Lankan Army commander Sarath Fonseka also accused Mahinda of attempting a coup in Sri Lanka. He also claimed that Mahinda had managed to position approximately 2000 soldiers of the Sri Lankan Army on the outskirts of Colombo and was ready to launch a coup. In March 2015, the UNP-led Sri Lankan government’s cabinet spokesperson denied having any evidence of the attempted coup by Mahinda. Later, Mahinda, in an official statement, denied attempting a coup. In his statement, Mahinda said,
“I deny in all possible terms reports of attempts to use the military to influence election results. I have always bowed down to the people’s verdict. This government wants to throw mud at me. I mean how can you start a coup with every other government being within two hours to thwart any attempt by me? I think they were speaking to Western governments and they had this idea about me.”
• Accused of appointing his relatives to important government posts: The Sri Lankan media has often accused Mahinda Rajapaksa of promoting nepotism in Sri Lanka. After winning the 2005 Presidential elections, Mahinda made his younger brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa the permanent defence secretary of Sri Lanka and reportedly, Gotabaya became the defence secretary in 2005 without contesting the Sri Lankan general elections. After winning the Presidential elections consecutively, in 2010, Mahinda appointed his elder brother Chamal Rajapaksa as the minister of finance. According to several media sources, Mahinda, during his tenure as the President of Sri Lanka, has not only appointed his brothers to important posts in the government but has also appointed his other relatives to several important diplomatic and governmental posts.
• Deteriorated freedom of the journalists under his Presidency: Several Sri Lankan media sources claimed that when Mahinda Rajapaksa served as the President of Sri Lanka from 2005 to 2015, the freedom of the journalists to report on sensitive issues deteriorated. According to a 2010 article published by Reporters Without Borders, out of 173 countries, Sri Lanka’s freedom of the press was ranked at 158, next to Saudi Arabia; however, the report was rejected by some Sri Lankan media houses, which claimed that the report was biased and unjustified. Voicing its opinion against the Reporters Without Borders report, the Sunday Guardian published an article in 2011 in which it said that the placement of Sri Lanka next to Saudi Arabia in the report was unjustified as there are no laws in Sri Lanka that debar the journalists from reporting sensitive issues like Saudi Arabia has. The report further said,
“RSF’s 2010 Press Freedom Index has Sri Lanka at number 158, nearly tied with Saudi Arabia. This makes the rankings somewhat suspect. In Saudi Arabia, all newspapers are owned by the royal family or their associates. All TV and radio stations are government-owned. Saudi journalists are forbidden by law to criticise the royal family or religious authorities and writers and bloggers are routinely arrested. Sri Lanka is obviously not this bad.”
• Sidelining the Tamils living in Sri Lanka: According to several sources, Mahinda, while serving as the President of Sri Lanka, implemented several policies that led to the marginalization of the Tamils living in Sri Lanka. In 2014, Mahinda and his younger brother Gotabaya were accused by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) of supporting the Bodu Bala Sena, a Buddhist extremist faction operating in Sri Lanka. The TNA also accused the brothers of using the Bodu Bala Sena to attack the Tamils and Muslims living in Sri Lanka. Talking about the allegations, the spokesperson of the TNA, during an interview, said,
“The values of democracy, good governance, and rule of law have suffered unprecedented assault under Rajapaksa. Instead of pursuing reconciliation, the Rajapaksa regime has permitted extremist groups to carry out attacks against minority peoples and their places of religious worship.”
In 2014, Mahinda Rajapaksa denied the allegations against him and said that the BBS was created by the western powers to malign the image of the Rajapaksa family. Talking to the media about it, he said,
“It is a Western-backed conspiracy to alienate minority Muslims and defeat his government. Look at where the BBS travelled (Norway and the US). It is clearly a (then) opposition project. I am a president for the whole nation. I divide people not as Sinhalese or Tamils or Muslims or Burghers [Lankan-Europeans]. I divide them into people who love the country and people who do not.”
Mahinda Rajapaksa, as the President, implemented a law in Sri Lanka according to which the national anthem of Sri Lanka would be sung by the citizens in the Sinhalese language and not in Tamil; however, after Mahinda was defeated by Maithripala Sirisena in the 2015 Presidential elections, Sirisena withdrew the law after which Mahinda voiced his opinion against the withdrawal of the law and said that “the national anthem should be sung in one language and not two or three languages.”
• Accused of creating the “Rajapaksa cult” in Sri Lanka: According to the Sri Lankan media, Mahinda, as a President, wanted to create a cult image of himself in Sri Lanka. Reportedly, young school children used to sing songs in his praise in which they used to refer to him as “the father of the country” and “our father.” The media also claimed that his supporters referred to him as the “King.” As the President, Mahinda not only had a few airlines named after him but also asked the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) to print his photo on the currency notes. As the President, he had several infrastructural projects named after him. These projects included the naming of Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport, Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port, Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre, and Mahinda Rajapaksa International Stadium after him.
• “The medical degree” row: In 2017, Mahinda Rajapaksa supported the agitation led by the students who were pursuing a degree in medicine from state-owned colleges and institutes against the degree in medicine that was being given by privately owned institutes and colleges like the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM). While talking about the protests, Mahinda Rajapaksa said that the Sri Lankan government should introduce a standard policy regarding the admission procedure of MBBS aspirants in Sri Lanka or else everyone in Sri Lanka would become a doctor by receiving a degree through institutes like SAITM. Responding to Mahinda’s statement, the director of SAITM claimed that the institute was given recognition by the University Grant Commission during Mahinda’s Presidency. He also claimed that on the orders of Mahinda, the institute awarded scholarships worth Rs 7 million to those students who had scored good marks in biology but could not pursue a degree in medicine at a government-owned institute.
• Violently attacking the protestors during the 2022 crisis: In May 2022, Mahinda Rajapaksa was accused of using brute force against the peaceful protestors who were protesting against the Rajapaksa family. It was alleged that after resigning from the Prime Ministership, on 9 May 2022, he gave a speech to his supporters in the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) in which he instigated them to violently crackdown on the protestors against the Rajapaksa family. Reportedly, after the speech, his supporters, armed with clubs and sticks, brutally attacked the protestors chanting “Gota Go Home” outside Mahinda’s residence in Colombo. Several Sri Lankan media houses also claimed that Mahinda’s supporters also attacked the protesters who were protesting at Galle Face and burnt their tents. Many sources claimed that the attacks undertaken by Mahinda’s loyalists resulted in more than 200 citizens getting critically injured. In his tweet, Sanath Jayasuriya, a former Sri Lankan cricketer, alleged that the attacks on the peaceful protestors in Sri Lanka were planned by Mahinda and his brothers. Talking to the media about it, he said,
“I never thought that this type of thuggery will be unleashed on innocent protesters at galle face in broad day and outside temple trees. The police must remember they are here to protect the PUBLIC of this country not corrupt politicians. This is the end of the Rajapaksas.”