Rajapaksa’s Return Could Upend Sri Lanka’s Unfinished Reconciliation

Rajapaksa’s Return Could Upend Sri Lanka’s Unfinished Reconciliation
Supporters of former Sri Lankan president and parliamentary candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa cheer for him during an election campaign rally, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, July 17, 2015 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka—After gently glancing his fingers over a miniature statue of the Hindu goddess Parvati attached to the dashboard of his taxi, Ganesan sped past the tollbooth onto the Colombo-Katunayake Expressway connecting Bandaranaike International Airport to Colombo. “This is the work of Rajapaksa,” he muttered, referring to the multimillion-dollar, multilane highway. Partly funded by the Chinese, the road was built by former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who, after dominating the island country’s politics for a decade, was surprisingly defeated in January’s presidential election by Maithripala Sirisena.

Now, with Sri Lanka’s parliamentary elections scheduled for Aug. 17, Rajapaksa is mounting a return.

“He’s a survivor,” Ganesan told me in his native Tamil. “Look how he has come back into politics.”

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