Mahinda Rajapaksa sworn in as Sri Lanka’s new prime minister

This is the third time Mahinda Rajapaksa has been appointed prime minister of Sri Lanka. (Reuters)
Updated 22 November 2019

Mahinda Rajapaksa sworn in as Sri Lanka’s new prime minister

  • Rajapaksa takes office for third time, days after his brother Gotabhaya became president

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s newly elected Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, was sworn in as the country’s 23rd premier on Thursday. His younger brother, Gotabhaya, the country’s newly elected president, presided over the 74-year-old’s inauguration ceremony at the Presidential Secretariat. Mahinda will head the country’s caretaker government until general elections in August 2020.

Former President Maithripala Sirisena and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who officially stepped down Thursday morning, were also present at the ceremony.

Wickremesinghe resigned from his post to make way for Rajapaksa’s regime, which he said had a “clear mandate” to form a new government.

According to official sources, the announcement of the interim cabinet, due to take place on Thursday, has been postponed until Friday.

This is the third time Mahinda Rajapaksa has been appointed prime minister of Sri Lanka. He gained a slim majority with the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) in 2004, and served a 52-day term during last year’s constitutional crisis.

Meanwhile, key members of the defeated Democratic United National Front (DUNF) party submitted a written request urging the speaker of parliament, Karu Jayasuriya, to appoint Sajith Premadasa to the post of Leader of the Opposition.

The main signatories of that petition were outgoing ministers Rauf Hakeem, Rishath Bathiudeen, Mano Ganeshan and senior members from the United National Party. The former education minister, Akila Viraj Kariyawsam, also submitted an individual request to the speaker requesting him to appoint Wickremesinghe instead.

Following the letters of resignation submitted by nine governors on Wednesday, the president appointed six new governors to take over their vacant provinces.

The new governors are A J M Muzammil for the North Western province, Tikiri Kobbekaduwa for Sabaragamuwa province, Seetha Arambepola for the Western province, Lalith U Gamage for the Central province, Raja Kollure for Uva, and Willy Gamage for the Southern province. Of those six new appointments, only Muzammil has previously held office as a provincial governor.

 
 


Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

Updated 12 July 2020

Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

  • Exercise being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory

HONG KONG: Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers turned up over the weekend to vote in an unofficial two-day primary election held by the city’s pro-democracy camp as it gears up to field candidates for an upcoming legislative poll.
The exercise is being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory in a move widely seen as chipping away at the “one country, two systems” framework under which Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997. It was passed in response to last year’s massive protests calling for greater democracy and more police accountability.
Throngs of people lined up at polling booths in the summer heat to cast their vote despite a warning by Hong Kong’s constitutional affairs minister, Eric Tsang last week that the primaries could be in breach of the new national security law, because it outlaws interference and disruption of duties by the local government.
Organizers have dismissed the comments, saying they just want to hold the government accountable by gaining a majority in the legislature.
The legislation prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in Hong Kong affairs. Under the law, police now have sweeping powers to conduct searches without warrants and order Internet service providers and platforms to remove messages deemed to be in violation of the legislation.
On Friday, police raided the office of the Public Opinion Research Institute, a co-organizer of the primary elections. The computer system was suspected of being hacked, causing a data leak, police said in a statement, and an investigation is ongoing.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp, which includes multiple parties, is attempting to join forces and use the primaries as a guide to field the best candidates in the official legislative election in September. Its goal is to win a majority in the legislature, which is typically skewed toward the pro-Beijing camp.
To hold the primary elections, pro-democracy activists had raised money via crowd funding. They pledged to veto the government’s budget if they clinch a majority in the legislature. Under the Basic Law, under which Hong Kong is governed, city leader Carrie Lam must resign if an important bill such as the budget is vetoed twice.
On Saturday alone, nearly 230,000 people voted at polling booths set up across the city, exceeding organizers’ estimates of a 170,000 turnout over the weekend.