Photo by AP, via Deccan Chronicle

The first #AskMR Twitter Q&A, conducted when former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was in New York attending the UN sessions in September 2013, was an unmitigated disaster. A complete archive of that session, plus a breakdown of what happened, was posted on Groundviews.

The second Twitter Q&A with the former President was during the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in August 2014, on the occasion of the World Conference on Youth 2014. As we noted in our comprehensive archive of the #WCY2014MR session,

Revealingly, not a single one of the most retweeted questions during the session, posed to the President by three leading journalists in Sri Lanka, were answered.

The third #AskMR Twitter Q&A was conducted earlier today, lasting around 2 hours and starting at 11am, Sri Lanka time. The Q&A was announced on 9 January.

Unlike in 2013, the former President and his team were active and ready for the session well before the scheduled time, at 10.42am.

A live search of #AskMR is embedded below, which includes questions leading up to the live session today.

The former President’s Twitter account, during the session, was clearly the most active in generating traffic around the #AskMR hashtag.

Aside from the automated retweets of the Jothipala_Bot, the highest frequency of tweets came from civic media, journalists from mainstream media located in Sri Lanka or reported on the country as well as other individuals.

At the time of writing, the archive contains 765 unique tweets in total. The former President’s handle @PresRajapaksa, published 42 tweets in total around the #AskMR session.

Most of the Twitter activity from @PresRajapaksa was during the two hours of the #AskMR session.

A complete, searchable archive of the #AskMR session can be accessed here. It’s easy to drill down by keyword, hashtag, account and also in reverse chronological order (earliest displayed first).

An interactive data visualisation of the #AskMR can be accessed here. Best experienced on a wide screen in high resolution, and with a suitably powerful computer.

Download the complete archive as an Excel spreadsheet here.

On a related note, a Q&A on Facebook with the former President’s son, and current MP Namal Rajapaksa, conducted January 8th, also received a lot of engagement. At the end of that session, the Facebook event had generated around 4,500 reactions, was shared over 200 times and featured over 600 comments, covering a vast range of issues.

Neither the current President Maithripala Sirisena nor the current PM Ranil Wickremesinghe have ever conducted a Q&A session, over any social media platform, since coming into power in 2015.