Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s former defense secretary and a front-runner in next month’s presidential election, said Sunday that he would empower the state’s intelligence sector with necessary legal cover to help secure the country in the aftermath of the deadly Easter Sunday bomb blasts.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared in his first election rally last week that he will release all military personnel under detention if he comes to power. He is a favorite to win the Nov. 16 election, in which national security has become the focal point.
“We will give due powers to the intelligence officers and also the necessary legal cover to perform their duties,” said Rajapaksa, pledging to revive the “country’s crippled defense mechanism.”
“By doing so, we will rebuild a secured country where you can live without any fear,” he told an election rally in the town of Kadawatha.
To many Sri Lankans — especially ethnic majority Sinhalese — Rajapaksa is a hero for his crucial role in ending the prolonged civil war in this Indian ocean island nation a decade ago. His popularity is on the increase after April’s Easter attacks that killed 263 people and wounded 500 others