Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa denies 'coup attempt'

Former president dismisses government claims that he tried to remain in office after losing last week's election.

    Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa denies 'coup attempt'
    Rajapaksa urged voters to back 'the devil they know' but lost the presidency to Sirisena [Reuters]

    Sri Lanka's former president Mahinda Rajapaksa has denied government allegations that he attempted to remain in office after it became clear that he had lost last week's election.

    In comments published on Twitter as Pope Francis landed on the island, Rajapaksa insisted he had readily accepted "the people's verdict" in what was his first reaction to last Thursday's polls.

    Top aides of new President Maithripala Sirisena have alleged the veteran politician tried to cling to power in the early hours of Friday by urging the island's army and police chiefs to deploy the security forces.

    But Rajapaksa wrote: "I deny in all possible terms reports of attempts to use the military to influence election results.

    "I accepted the outcome long before the final official results were released and congratulated the new president," he said.

    The 69-year-old, who came to power in a 2005 presidential election, added that he had "always bowed down to the people's verdict".


    Sirisena's new administration has pledged to make an investigation into what it has called "the coup and conspiracy" one of its top priorities. It has also ordered the sacking of hundreds of Rajapaksa-appointed officials, the AFP news agency reported.

    Although the military has not confirmed an approach from Rajapaksa's camp in the hours before the final results were announced, Sirisena's top lieutenants have said there was clear evidence of a conspiracy.

    Rajapaksa, who had been South Asia's longest-serving leader, had initially been widely praised for conceding defeat to Sirisena before the final results were announced.

    But Mangala Samaraweera, who has been appointed as Sirisena's foreign minister, has said "it was anything but" a peaceful transition.

    "He stepped down only when the army chief and the police inspector general refused to go along with him," he charged at the weekend.



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