Sri Lanka’s two-time former president Mahinda Rajapaksa hopes to return as the head of the state despite a constitutional provision that bars a person from contesting the presidential election for a third term.
“There is an opinion that I could contest again,” the former president told reporters on Saturday at Piliyandala, a Colombo suburb. The former Sri Lankan strongman’s nearly a decade-long rule was ended by Maithripala Sirisena in 2015.
Rajapaksa, 72, said his party, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), will be inquiring with the Supreme Court whether under the 19th Constitutional Amendment, a person who had previously held the post of President twice, could contest the presidential election for a third term. “We will explore that,” said Rajapaksa.
The 19th Amendment adopted in 2015 bars those who had held the post of President twice from running to be president a third time. Rajapaksa in 2010 had amended the constitution lifting the bar for a third term. The 2015 amendment annulled it.
His camp is of the opinion that the amendment was only adopted after Rajapaksa lost the presidency to incumbent Mathripala Sirisena, so that there cannot be a retrospective effect.
The article 31 of the constitution was amended in 2015 to read “(2) No person who has been twice elected to the office of President by the people, shall be qualified thereafter to be elected to such office by the people”.
The Rajapaksa camp in the recent times has been promoting Rajapaksa’s younger brother Gotabhaya to be the candidate in the next election which must be called by the end of next year and must be held before January 8, 2020.
Last week, Rajapaksa was questioned by Sri Lankan police in connection with a 2008 abduction and assault case of a journalist.
His return to politics could pose a new threat to Sirisena, whose Freedom Party has split. Rajapaksa has emerged as the de facto leader of a rival political faction and is expected to name his choice of candidate to contest presidential elections slated for 2019.
Rajapaksa lost his re-election bid in January 2015 and also failed to secure the prime minister post after parliamentary elections later that year.
The former leader and members of his family are under investigation for murder and large-scale financial fraud during his decade as president. All deny any wrongdoing.