Sri Lanka president swears in brother as PM

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Sri Lanka’s new president has sworn in his brother as interim prime minister, a remarkable return to power for the siblings who oversaw the brutal end to the island’s civil war 10 years ago.

Mahinda Rajapaksa took the oath as PM at a brief ceremony in Colombo.

His younger brother Gotabaya was voted in as president on Sunday and has said he wants to rule for all Sri Lankans.

Abuses while in power
Rights groups are concerned that wide-scale abuses were documented when the Rajapaksas were last in power.

Mahinda was president from 2005-2015, while Gotabaya was his defence chief. Both men deny any wrongdoing.

The election was Sri Lanka’s first since the deadly Easter Sunday attacks and security was a key issue.

Militants linked to the Islamic State group targeted churches and high-end hotels across the island in April, killing more than 250 people.

The response to Sunday’s poll, which Mahinda could not contest because of a two-term limit, has been hugely polarised.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa won the vote with a comfortable mandate, largely backed by the Sinhalese Buddhist majority.

But Sri Lanka’s north and eastern provinces overwhelmingly rejected him. These regions are dominated by Tamil, Hindu and Muslim populations who broadly support his opponent.

Mr Rajapaksa, who has positioned himself as a strong figure who can assure Sri Lankans’ security, is a highly controversial figure among the country’s more than two million Tamils.

Wartime leader brothers
Gotabaya and his brother, Mahinda, spearheaded the defeat of separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009, ending a decades-long war in which at least 100,000 people died.

During its final stages, thousands of people disappeared, many are said to have been tortured or killed. The enforced disappearances continued into the years after the war ended, when businessmen, journalists and activists seen as opponents of the Rajapaksas were rounded up and never seen again.

The Rajapaksa government denied any role in the disappearances. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, however, has been directly accused of violating human rights.

 

Nneka Ukachukwu