Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has denied allegations that he tried to cling on to power, saying he decided to let then-opposition presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena assume the country’s top post after looking at the trend of election results in the early hours of Friday.
“When U.S. State Secretary John Kerry spoke to Rajapaksa over the phone, the former president assured him there will be a smooth power transition as stipulated in the constitution,” Rajapaksa’s spokesman, Mohan Samaranayake told Reuters.
Rajapaksa, who gathered 47.6 percent of the vote compared to Sirisena’s 51.3 percent, conceded his defeat and left his official residence before the official results were announced.
The campaign spokesman of the new president claimed on Saturday that the Sri Lankan army defied orders from President Rajapaksa to keep him in his post “by force” even after he lost his bid for a third term.
“The army chief got orders to deploy the troops on the ground across the country. They tried attempts to continue by force. The army chief defied all the orders he got in the last hours,” Rajitha Senaratne had told reporters in Colombo.
“We spoke to the army chief and told him not to do this. He kept the troops in the barracks and helped a free and fair election,” Senaratne also said.
Military spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya said he is unaware of Rajapaksa’s order to the military to back him, maintaining that the military stayed out of all the stages of the electoral process.
“Sri Lanka’s military will not do anything to disrupt the democratic traditions and process,” he said.