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.

 
 


Kosovo declares Nobel laureate Handke ‘persona non grata’

Updated 51 min 37 sec ago

Kosovo declares Nobel laureate Handke ‘persona non grata’

  • The Swedish Academy’s pick for the 2019 prize has reopened old wounds in the Balkans, where many see Handke as an apologist for Serb atrocities
  • Tuesday’s award ceremony was boycotted by representatives of the embassies of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Turkey

PRISTINA: Kosovo declared Peter Handke a ‘persona non grata’ on Wednesday in the latest protest against his induction as a Nobel literature laureate, barring the Austrian writer from a place he has visited numerous times.
The Swedish Academy’s pick for the 2019 prize has reopened old wounds in the Balkans, where many see Handke as an apologist for Serb atrocities during Yugoslavia’s bloody collapse.
One Nobel committee member resigned over the choice, while Tuesday’s award ceremony was boycotted by representatives of the embassies of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Turkey.
“Today I have decided to declare Peter Handke as not welcome in Kosovo. He is a non-grata person... Denying crimes and supporting criminals is a terrible crime,” Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli wrote on Facebook.
The writer is not popular among Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian-majority, who fought Belgrade for independence in a 1998-99 war that claimed 13,000 lives.
But he was a frequent guest in the tiny Serb enclave of Velika Hoca, one of several small ethnic Serb communities scattered around the former Serbian province.
Handke has visited Velika Hoca at least five times and donated nearly €100,000 ($110,000) to the community of 500 people, whose village is nestled among the rolling hills of southern Kosovo.
“Even if there are big problems, I think life has a good rhythm here,” the writer said during a 2014 visit.
“I can be alone here. I can hide. I can walk very hidden behind the hills,” he added.
Handke’s elevation to Nobel laureate has also been painful for many Bosnian Muslims, as he is accused of questioning the genocide in Srebrenica, where Bosnian Serbs slaughtered 8,000 Muslim men and boys in 1995.
On Wednesday he was formally barred from Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo, where the regional government said his appearance would “provoke the anger and humiliation” of war victims.
Yet he is still welcome to visit the Serb-run zone that spans nearly half of Bosnia’s territory — a legacy of the war that left the country carved up along ethnic lines.
On Tuesday Handke told RTRS, the public broadcaster in Bosnia’s Serb-run region that he would like to visit “in the spring.”
Handke has defended his work and denied any allegiance to the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
Critics say Handke made his loyalties clear by speaking at the funeral of Milosevic, who died in 2006 while on trial in The Hague for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Handke’s 1997 book “A Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia” was also accused of minimizing Serb war crimes.
But among Serb fans, Handke is still celebrated for taking note of their suffering during the conflicts and challenging the narrative that Serbs were the sole aggressors in the wars.
In Belgrade, one politician suggested creating a human rights prize in Handke’s name on Wednesday.
Handke was one of “very few who searched for the truth during the 1990s,” said MP Mirjana Dragas, describing the author as a “brave, but above all great, novelist.”