Newly elected Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Wednesday appointed his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa the prime minister of the island nation, AFP reported. The announcement came immediately after Ranil Wickremesinghe resigned as prime minister.
Seventy-year-old Gotabaya Rajapaksa oversaw the military defeat of Tamil separatists during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidency a decade ago. He was in charge of the defence ministry then. The Rajapaksa brothers are popular among the Sinhalese majority for bringing an end to the 26-year-long armed conflict.
However, they remain deeply unpopular among the Tamil and Muslim communities. Some rights groups and members of minority communities have accused the Rajapaksas of committing human rights violations towards the end of the civil war. They have expressed concerns about renewed ethnic tensions on the diverse island following the election results.
A spokesperson for the new administration said Mahinda Rajapaksa would be sworn in on Thursday. “Prime Minister Rajapaksa will have his cabinet appointed shortly after taking his oath of office,” spokesperson Vijayananda Herath told the news agency. This is the first time Sri Lanka will have the two brothers at the helm.
“Although we enjoy a parliamentary majority, we respect the mandate received by Mr Rajapaksa and we have decided to allow him to form a new government,” Wickremesinghe said in an address to the nation.
The Election Commission said Gotabaya Rajapaksa won 52.25% of the votes in Saturday’s election while the candidate from Wickremesinghe’s party, Sajith Premadasa, polled 41.99%.
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