Colombo: Mahinda Rajapaksa pressurised the army chief to deploy troops when it became evident that he had lost Sri Lanka's presidential polls, a spokesman for the country's new government said on Saturday.
"The army chief (Lt Gen Daya Ratnayake) was under pressure to deploy but he did not. He declined to do anything illegal," said Rajitha Senaratne, the chief spokesman for the new president here.
"Even in the last hour, he tried to remain in office. Only when he realised that he had no other option, he decided to go," Senaratne said.
Rajapakse was widely lauded for conceding defeat yesterday, even before the last votes had been counted, when he realised that his rival Maithripala Sirisena had an unassailable lead.
"We appreciate the straightforwardness of the Army Commander, Inspector General of Police and the Commissioner of Elections," he said.
"They stood to uphold the democratic traditions for free and fair election".
There was no immediate comment from the military.
Senaratne, who is tipped to become health minister, refused to specify whether Rajapaksa himself tried to contact the military chief or used his younger brother Gotabhaya.
In the run up to the January 8 polls, the opposition leaders alleged that the military was deployed to disrupt the polls in the Tamil-dominated former conflict zones in the north.
The military dismissed the allegations then.
A low turnout in the former Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) strongholds was supposed to favour Rajapaksa.
Rajapaksa- popular among the Sinhala majority for his defeat of the LTTE- was banking on the majority vote for his record third term bid.
Sirisena the new president received overwhelming Tamil support as voting was conducted peacefully in these areas.
In a stunning verdict, Sri Lankan voters yesterday ousted Rajapaksa from power after a 10-year rule and chose in his place his one-time minister Maithripala Sirisena, who led a revolt and defected to the opposition camp on the eve of announcement of the elections.
Sri Lanka has been largely immune from military meddling in politics except for a failed 1962 coup. Since then, there had been no direct military role in politics.
Former army chief Sarath Fonseka, who launched an unsuccessful bid to challenge president Rajapakse in 2010, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for engaging in politics while still in uniform.