Sri Lanka's former president Rajapaksa denies allegations that he attempted post-election coup

COLOMBO (AFP) - Sri Lanka's former president Mahinda Rajapaksa on Tuesday denied government allegations that he attempted a coup to remain in office after it became clear that he had lost last week's election.

"I deny in all possible terms reports of attempts to use the military to influence election results," the former leader said on Twitter, adding that he had accepted the verdict before the final results were declared on Friday.

Top aides of new President Maithripala Sirisena have alleged that Mr Rajapaksa tried to cling to power by persuading the island’s army and police chiefs to deploy the security forces.Mr Rajapaksa broke his silence on the coup allegation just as Pope Francis began a two-day visit to the island and called for justice, healing and unity in a country emerging from a 37-year Tamil separatist war.Mr Rajapaksa, who had invited the Pope last year, was not at the welcome ceremony but issued three tweets rejecting the allegations against him.In his first direct response to the coup charge, Mr Rajapaksa said he had “always bowed down to the people’s verdict”.Mr Rajapaksa, who had been South Asia’s longest-serving leader, had been widely praised for conceding defeat to Mr Sirisena before the final results were announced.Just before the new government was formed on Monday, incoming Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said Mr Rajapaksa had in fact tried to persuade the army and police chiefs to help him stay in office with the use of force.“People think it was a peaceful transition. It was anything but,” Mr Samaraweera told a press conference at the weekend.“The first thing the new Cabinet will investigate is the coup and conspiracy by president Rajapaksa,” he added.