Rajapaksas take control of Sri Lanka with Gotabaya as president and Mahinda PM
21 November 2019
The Rajapaksa family took control of the Sri Lankan government with newly-elected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Wednesday, naming his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister and cementing the grip on power of a clan credited with brutally crushing the Tamil Tigers a decade ago.
Incumbent Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Wednesday he would resign after his party UNP’s candidate lost a presidential election. “I have decided to resign from the Prime Minister’s post to give space for the new President to form his own government,” said Wickremesinghe in a statement, adding that he plans to hand in his resignation to the president on Thursday.
Mahinda, a two-term president himself, is due to be sworn in as premier today after Ranil Wickremesinghe resigns, a worry for India and a victory of sorts for its detractors. Sri lanka is also a key member of China’s belt and road infrastructure alliance.
The Rajapaksa brothers are accused of war crimes and multiple human rights abuses in their brutal destruction of the Tamil Tigers to end Sri Lanka's decades-long civil war.
A spokesman for the new administration said Rajapaksa, 74, will be sworn in by his younger brother Gotabaya, aged 70.
Two other brothers, Basil and Chamal, are also active in politics. It is not known how they will stack up in the administration.
"Prime Minister Rajapaksa will have his cabinet appointed shortly after taking his oath of office," said spokesman Vijayananda Herath.
Gotabaya, who was defence minister when brother Mahinda Rajapaksa served as president from 2005-2015, was elected president on 16 November as the candidate of Rajapaksa’s party SLPP.
Sri Lankan media have reported that the new president would soon name an interim cabinet to govern the country until a parliamentary election expected around April.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa takes over Sri Lanka’s President at a time when the country is facing its deepest economic slump in more than 15 years, in the wake of the Easter Sunday attacks by Islamic State terrorists on hotels and churches that killed more than 250 people and damaged Sri Lanka’s tourism sector.
The new president, who oversaw the defeat of Tamil separatists as his brother’s defence minister a decade ago, has promised to secure the country against militant threats as well.
Gotabaya is expected to appoint a 15-member interim cabinet until the parliamentary election, when his brother is expected to seek the post of prime minister.
In his first set of appointments, Gotabaya Rajapaksa also on Tuesday named P B Jayasundera, who was treasury chief under his brother, as his secretary, and tapped his close ally Kamal Gunaratne, a military general, as defence secretary.
Rajapaksa’s election has raised hopes among investors that the island nation’s economy would recover. The main stock index has risen 1.9 per cent on Wednesday and the Sri Lankan rupee has gained 0.5 per cent in the past three sessions.