Lanka's new Prez cleared of fraud charges on immunity


By Susitha Fernando

Colombo, Nov 21 (IANS): Newly elected Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was acquitted of misappropriation charges based on presidential immunity.

A special court, set up by the previous government to try corruption and fraud cases alleged to have been committed during former Rajapaksa regime, dropped all charges against Gotabaya, four days after his election as the seventh President of the South Asian island nation.

Rajapaksa and six others were charged on misappropriation of nearly Sri Lankan Rs 34 million or around $185,000 to build a museum for his parents in their home town, Hambantota in Southern Sri Lanka. A three-judge special court acquitted Rajapaksa when the Attorney General announced that country's Constitution prevents trying an Executive President on any criminal or civil charges.

Deputy Solicitor General Dileepa Peiris, representing the Attorney General, informed the court that the Executive President is immune from judicial trials and requested to drop charges against Rajapaksa.

The court also ordered to release his passport and remove the travel ban imposed on him. However, the case against the other six accused is to be decided on the next hearing.

Gotabaya serving as the Defence Secretary under his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa's government from 2005 to 2015 had constructed a museum under his father, a former politician D.A. Rajapaksa's name. The previous government charged Gotabaya with misappropriation and he was indicted before a special three-judge High court bench.

Under his brother Mahinda, Gotabaya who oversaw the 2009 defeat of Tamil rebels Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), was elected Sri Lanka's President at last Saturday's election. Polling a sizable 6.9 million, mainly majority Sinhalese votes, Gotabaya defeated his main opponent Sajith Premadasa who managed 5.5 million votes.

Following the resigning of former PM Ranil Wickremesinghe and his cabinet, Gotabaya on Thursday appointed his brother Mahinda as the new Prime Minister of the proposed care-taker government. A 15-member cabinet of the new government is to be appointed tomorrow.

  

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