COLOMBO (Reuters) – Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a key politician in Sri Lanka’s civil war, has renounced U.S. citizenship, paving the way for him to make a bid on his country’s presidency.
Sri Lanka does not allow dual citizenship and foreign nationals cannot contest elections.
Gotabaya, a defence chief during the civil war that ended in 2009 and the younger brother of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, announced late April that he would run in the presidential election due later this year.
He is very popular among Sri Lanka’s politically powerful Sinhala Buddhist majority, which accounts for 70 percent of the country’s 21 million population.
“I can say Gotabaya Rajapaksa has renounced his U.S. citizenship,” Basil Rajapaksa, former economy minister and Gotabaya’s brother, told a news conference on Thursday.
Gotabaya, along with his then-president brother Mahinda, is credited with having crushed the Tamil Tiger insurgent group in 2009 but he has also been accused of human rights violations, especially in the closing stages of the 26-year war.
He is facing war-related lawsuits in the United States and the claims had earlier been expected to delay the process of him dropping U.S. citizenship.
Gotabaya has rejected the allegations of human rights abuse.
Basil Rajapaksa’s party, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, is widely expected to nominate Gotabaya as its candidate for the presidential election on August 11.
Mahinda Rajapaksa, the current opposition leader, will be named as party chief the same day, Basil said.
(Reporting by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Sankalp Phartiyal; and Stephen Powell)