In a major relief to presidential election front-runner Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, a Sri Lankan court on Friday dismissed a plea challenging the citizenship of the former defence secretary and his candidacy for the November polls.
The Court of Appeal rejected the case filed by two civil activists alleging that Gotabhaya, the younger brother of former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa, violated the immigration and election laws by engaging in political activities during the 2005 presidential elections while holding US citizenship.
The activists appealed to the court to cancel Gotabhaya”s citizenship, alleging that he renounced it in 2003 to become a US citizen and regained it two years later in an irregular manner.
Claiming that Gotabhaya is not a Sri Lankan citizen, the petitioners appealed to the the court to issue a writ against his candidacy.
The 19th amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution adopted in 2015 has barred non Sri Lankans from contesting elections.
Gotabhaya declared that he is no longer a US citizen and by the virtue of that he is not a dual citizen of Sri Lanka and the US.
The three-judge panel unanimously rejected the case, saying it had no merit.
With Rajapaksa disqualified to run for a third term, Gotabhaya, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) presidential candidate, is seen as the most suitable of the Rajapaksa brothers to contest the elections and is the main opposition challenger.
Gotabhaya under Rajapaksa”s presidency was credited for the leadership given to end the 30-year campaign by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to separate the island”s north and east provinces to carve out a Tamil homeland.
Therefore he commands popular support from the Sinhala majority community.