The five-year terms of the seven out of the nine councils have ended and are now due to hold elections.

Sri Lanka’s former defence chief, accused of overseeing the massacre of thousands of Tamils, announced he had taken steps to renounce his American citizenship as he arrived back in Colombo on Friday (12).

Gotabaya Rajapaksa was greeted at Colombo’s airport by hundreds of supporters, who garlanded him on arrival. He had just returned from the United States, where he had been served notice of two civil lawsuits filed against him.

“I went to the US to initiate the legal process to renounce my US citizenship,” Rajapaksa told the crowds. “I have done it successfully.”

Rumours had been swirling regarding Rajapaksa’s dual citizenship, which reportedly posed an obstacle to him holding office in Sri Lanka. The renunciation of US citizenship may now clear the way for him to run as a candidate in this year’s Sri Lankan presidential elections.

Speaking on the lawsuits he currently faces, over the torture of a Tamil survivor and the murder of a prominent Colombo-based journalist, Rajapaksa told his supporters that the litigation was politically motivated.

“I have been in the US more than ten times,” he said. “But these people never asked me for compensation. So this is done ahead of the presidential poll,”

He later went on to tweet,

Touched by the warm welcome – greatly appreciate your love and support. No one can obstruct me from fulfilling my obligations  to our beloved nation. Ready to serve my country again if and when duty calls. #LKA #savethenation