In this handout photograph taken and released by Gotabaya Rajapaksa Media Unit on November 17, 2019, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa (C) gestures to supporters and well-wishers after his victory outside his house in Colombo. - Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who spearheaded the brutal crushing of the Tamil Tigers 10 years ago, stormed to victory on November 17 in Sri Lanka's presidential elections seven months after Islamist extremist attacks killed 269 people. (Photo by Handout / Gotabaya Rajapaksa Media Unit / AFP)

COLOMBO: Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who spearheaded the brutal crushing of the Tamil Tigers 10 years ago, stormed to victory Sunday in Sri Lanka’s presidential elections, seven months after Islamist extremist attacks killed 269 people.

Rajapaksa conducted a nationalist campaign with a promise of security and a vow to crush religious extremism in the Buddhist-majority country following the April 21 suicide bomb attacks blamed on a homegrown jihadi group.

His triumph will, however, alarm Sri Lanka’s Tamil and Muslim minorities as well as activists, journalists and possibly some in the international community following the 2005-15 presidency of his older brother Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Mahinda, with Gotabaya effectively running the security forces, ended a 37-year civil war with Tamil separatists. His decade in power was also marked by alleged rights abuses, murky extra-judicial killings and closer ties with China.

A supporter of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa celebrates in Colombo on November 17, 2019. - Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who spearheaded the brutal crushing of the Tamil Tigers 10 years ago, stormed to victory on November 17 in Sri Lanka's presidential elections seven months after Islamist extremist attacks killed 269 people. (Photo by ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP)

Gotabaya, a retired lieutenant-colonel, 70, nicknamed the “Terminator” by his own family, romped to victory with 51.9 per cent of the vote, results from the two-thirds of votes counted so far showed.

“I didn’t sleep all night,” said student Devni, 22, one of around 30 people who gathered outside Rajapaksa’s Colombo residence. “I am so excited, he is the president we need.”

Rajapaksa’s main rival, the moderate Sajith Premadasa of the ruling party, trailed on 42.3 per cent, The 52-year-old conceded the race and congratulated Rajapaksa.

On Sunday three cabinet members resigned – including Finance Minister Mangalar Samaraweera.

Supporters of Sri Lanka People's Front party presidential election candidate and former wartime defence chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa celebrate while watching election results on tv at a home on the following day of the presidential Election Day in Colombo, Sri Lanka November 17, 2019. - REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

The final result was expected later on Sunday with Rajapaksa due to be sworn in on Monday. Turnout was over 80 per cent.

Premadasa had strong support in minority Tamil areas but a poor showing in Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese heartland, a core support base where Rajapaksa won some two-thirds of the vote. - AFP