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Coup averted in Sri Lanka

| by a Special Correspondent
Courtesy: The Colombo Mirror

( January 11, 2015, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The new government today accused deposed Mahinda Rajapaksa of having tried to stage a coup to cling to power after losing last week’s presidential election.

“I don’t know who had spoken (to him), but we know some leaders did talk to him.”
Rajapaksa, South Asia’s longest-serving leader before losing last Thursday’s polls, had been globally applauded for allowing a smooth transition and handing over to Maithripala Sirisena before the final results had been announced.

However, a top spokesman for the opposition, Mangala Samaraweera, said the reality was anything but a peaceful transition.

Rajapaksa had in fact tried to order the army and police chiefs to help him stay in office with the use of force.

“He was trying to subvert democracy,” said Samaraweera who is tipped to be the new foreign minister, a portfolio he had previously held.

“People think it was a peaceful transition. It was anything but,” Samaraweera told a press conference.

“The first thing the new cabinet will investigate is the coup and conspiracy by president Rajapakse.

“He stepped down only when the army chief and the police Inspector General (N.K. Illangakoon) refused to go along with him.”

Illangakoon was “very vocal and did not want to be a party to this coup” while army chief Daya Ratnayake also refused to deploy troops for Rajapakse to seize power, said Samaraweera.

The attorney general’s department had also warned that there would be “dangerous consequences”, he said.

Samaraweera said diplomatic pressure had in addition been brought to bear on Rajapakse, who came in for international criticism during his near-decade in office over his administration’s human rights record.

“Some world leaders also spoke with president Rajapaksa and prevailed on him to ensure a peaceful transition,” Samaraweera said.

“I don’t know who had spoken (to him), but we know some leaders did talk to him.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry and even Sirisena himself had thanked Rajapaksa for quitting in the early hours of Friday, after his defeat in an election he had seemed certain to win when he called it in November.

The head of the army was not immediately available for comment. But military spokesman Ruwan Wanigasooriya said he was “not aware of such a coup attempt”.

Samaraweera said it was important for the new administration to disclose what had happened while results were being released, and an independent investigation probe would be a priority.

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