Mahinda Rajapaksa takes oath as Sri Lankan Prime Minister

Mahinda Rajapaksa was administered the oath of office by his younger brother and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the sacred Rajamaha Viharaya in Kelaniya, a north Colombo suburb.   | Photo Credit: Facebook/@gotabayar

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Sunday took the oath of office as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, following the ruling party’s landslide victory in the August 5 general election. Mr. Rajapaksa, 74, polled a record-breaking share of preferential votes — over five lakh — this election, reflecting his popularity in the electorate 50 years after he first entered Parliament.

The swearing in ceremony was held at the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara, at a revered Buddhist temple near Colombo, where his younger brother and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa administered the oath, after he bowed and took Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s blessings.

The emphatic two-thirds majority to the ruling party in the recent poll, after Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s big win in November, allows the Rajapaksa brothers to amend the Constitution. As part of their poll campaign, the brothers vowed to repeal a 2015 legislation capping presidency at two-terms and trimming the President’s executive powers. The ninth Parliament of Sri Lanka will not only see the siblings helm the country’s two most powerful offices, but will have among its members, their third and elder brother Chamal Rajapaksa, a former Speaker, his son Shasheendra Rajapaksa and Namal Rajapaksa, son of Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa and a popular former MP from the southern Hambantota district.

The Tamil question

Both the President and Prime Minister have underscored the need for greater development in the country’s civil war-affected areas, while the Tamil leadership is also concerned about the minority’s long-pending demand for greater political rights.

In the decade following the long civil war, Sri Lanka’s northern Tamils have been demanding a lasting political solution, with a greater measure of power to self-govern. R. Sampanthan, Leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) — which suffered an electoral setback and secured only 10 of its 16 seats this election — said the people of the country had given the government a strong mandate.

“It has the authority and power to do all that is necessary for the people. As far as we are concerned, we will extend to the government our fullest cooperation to everything done in national interest and in the interest of solving the country’s problems,” he told The Hindu.

Much work has been done in the past, including the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 and the consequent 13th Amendment that speaks of power devolution, Mr. Sampanthan said. Discussions on improving the 13th Amendment continued with Presidents R. Premadasa, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Mahinda Rajapaksa in the past, and with the former government of Maithripala Sirisena-Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The new government, he said, must “evolve a formula without delay” for the resolution of the lingering national question. “I believe it will be part and parcel of the new Constitution being contemplated,” he told The Hindu.

The inaugural session of the new Parliament is scheduled for August 20.

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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 8:35:03 AM |

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