MUSCAT: Many from the Sri Lankan community in Muscat have expressed hope of their country’s better future after elections saw president Mahinda Rajapaksa lose power to former ally Maithripala Sirisena.

Oman has a population of 20,000-plus Sri Lankan expatriates. Most welcomed the change saying it will pave the way for more development in the country.

A Sri Lankan expat in Muscat felt that changed priorities and favouritism led to Rajapaksa’s downfall.

“During the last few years of his rule, development had become random. His attitude and approach had changed. However, his contributions, mainly free education, cannot be ignored,” said the expat not wishing to be named.

Sirisena, a former ally of Rajapaksa, won 51.3 per cent of the votes. Rajapaksa was holding office since 2005.

“One cannot ignore the former president’s contribution. He was a good man, instrumental in crushing the LTTE, and contributing towards the nation’s development,” said Sunil Ponnamperuma, a quality surveyor at a private company in Muscat.

He added that Rajapaksa developed Sri Lanka’s economy, security and tourism.

“Rajapaksa pulled the nation out of a poor economic situation it was facing for three decades.”

Some say he had become increasingly authoritarian and corrupt.

Nimal Fernando, a bank officer felt his defeat was a blessing for Sri Lanka.

“It’s true that he crushed the LTTE and ended the decades-old war. But thereafter, he failed to deliver what people expected of him. He failed to address the grievances of minorities, especially Tamils. Under his rule, important entities like courts and police lost their impartiality.

Although he preached temperance, his party’s parliamentarians were accused of drug trafficking. He kept financially rich ministries under his thumb and ran the country with his two brothers.”

Fernando feels Rajapaksa ruined the foreign service by appointing his close relatives to key positions.

“With a majority of the parliament behind him, he altered a clause in the constitution that stipulated that a person can be elected only twice to the executive presidency. He was seeking a third term and people taught him a good lesson, and put an end to the dictatorship he was building.”

On expectations from the new government, Chris, a private sector employee in Muscat said, “I hope that the new government encourages more development and investment. I also wish it reduces or abolishes long presidential rules. At the same time, because Sri Lanka is a small country, it doesn’t need so many Cabinet members. Only 50 are enough.”