Colombo: Maithripala Sirisena, the Sri Lankan President-elect, will be sworn-in on Friday following his stunning victory in the tightest-ever presidential race that ended the 10-year-rule of Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said the swearing in ceremony will be held at 6 pm in the Independence Monument in the capital.
“The new President will be sworn-in this evening. This morning I met President Rajapaksa who declared his intention for a smooth transition. For his action to finish the war (with the LTTE) we have to respect him,” he told reporters.
Â Sirisena, 63, was officially elected as the sixth President of Sri Lanka by Commissioner of Elections Mahinda Deshapriya.
“I declare that Maithripala Sirisena has been duly elected as the President of Sri Lanka,” Deshapriya announced.
He polled 6,217,162 or 51.2% of the vote against the incumbent Rajapaksa’s 5,768,090 or 47.6%. Sirisena, backed by the main opposition United National Party (UNP), the Buddhist nationalist JHU or the Heritage Party and a host of other Tamil and Muslim minority parties, defeated Rajapaksa in a keenly contest battle.
Rajapaksa, 69, called a snap presidential election to win a mandate for his third term. Hailing from the rural north central province, Sirisena does not speak English, is ever seen in the national dress. He has no background of hobnobbing with the Colombo elite and socialites.
No old boy of a leading Colombo school, he was more than a match for Rajapaksa’s rural appeal. “What was expected to be an easy win for him turned into a difficult task when Sirisena broke ranks in late November to challenge Rajapaksa as the opposition unity candidate,” political experts said.
Sirisena ran his campaign based on a 100-day reform programme to introduce constitutional and democratic reforms. He has pledged a national unity government with the participation of all political parties represented in parliament.
Rajapaksa left his tightly guarded official residence early this morning in order to facilitate Sirisena’s induction. Sirisena said he wished to thank Rajapaksa and urged the new President’s supporters to celebrate victory peacefully.