Obama welcomes new Sri Lanka president, lauds Rajapaksa for graceful exit

COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – US President Barrack Obama said he looked forward to better relations with Sri Lanka after the election of a new leader and lauded ex-president Rajapaksa for "facilitating a swift and orderly transition of power."

"On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the people of Sri Lanka on the successful and peaceful conclusion of Sri Lanka’s presidential election and incoming President Maithripala Sirisena on his victory," Obama said.

"I also commend the outgoing administration of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa for facilitating a swift and orderly transition of power.

"Beyond the significance of this election to Sri Lanka, it is also a symbol of hope for those who support democracy all around the world.

"International and domestic monitors and observers were permitted to do their jobs. Sri Lankans from all segments of society cast their ballots peacefully, and the voice of the people was respected."

President Rajapaksa conceded defeat before all results were officially declared Friday paving the way for swearing in Sirisena.

Fears had been expressed earlier about a possible military take-over engineered by his brother, the feared Gothabaya Rajapaksa who has been accused of attempting regimentation and militarization of society.

Relations with the West deteriorated when Sri Lanka was ruled by Rajapaksa and his three brothers and the UN launched a war crimes probe over the last stages of a civil war that ended in 2009 as well as treatment of citizens and dissenters after the war.

China strongly backed the Rajapaksa administration while it was accused of hunting human rights defenders and engaged in net censorship and other violations of the freedoms of Sri Lanka citizens.

Sri Lanka’s minority communities including Tamils and Muslims voted heavily against Rajapaksa.
Muslims in particular were targeted by an extreme Burma style Buddhist group believed be backed by Rajapaksa’s brother Gothabaya. 

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Obama said he hoped to work more closely with Sri Lanka.

"At this moment of hope, the United States looks forward to deepening its partnership with the people and government of Sri Lanka and to working with President Sirisena to advance peace, democracy, and prosperity for all Sri Lankans," he said.

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