He's a hero for some, and a war criminal to others.

Sri Lanka's new president is positioning himself as the strongman who can fix the nation's most challenging problems.

Promises made by Gotapaya Rajapaksa to improve security and the struggling economy gained support at the ballot box, particularly from the Sinhala-Buddhist majority.

But his swearing into office highlights the island's ethnic and religious split - similar to that experienced under his brother Mahinda's two terms as both president and prime minister.

Many Tamil and Muslim voters reject the Rakapaksas, who are both accused of war crimes.

Gotapaya was defence secretary while his brother was president when the Tamil Tigers were defeated 10 years ago to end the 26-year-long civil war.

And Muslims have faced hostility following the Easter suicide attacks that killed 263 people.

Will Gotapaya Rajapaksa's rule attempt to reconcile Sri Lanka's ethnic and religious divide?

Presenter: Hashem Ahelbarra


Rajiva Wee-jen-Sinha - Former member of parliament

Rajesh Venu-gopal - Associate professor at the London School of Economics, and author of Nationalism, Development and Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka

Roshni Kapur - Research analyst at the Institute for South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore

Source: Al Jazeera