Colombo: Sri Lanka’s newly elected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has sworn in his brother and former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister. Gotabaya Rajapaksa is expected to name his Cabinet later, on the advice of the new prime minister.
Ranil Wickremesinghe stepped down as prime minister earlier last week to clear the way for the president to form his government. Mahinda Rajapaksa is credited with a military victory ending a 26-year separatist civil war with ethnic Tamil rebels during his presidency from 2005 to 2015.
This marks the return of the powerful Rajapaksa dynasty known for its pro-China tilt, amidst security challenges following the Easter Sunday terror attacks that killed 269 people. Gotabaya defeated Sajith Premadasa by more than 13,00,000 votes, according to the official results. He will succeed President Maithripala Sirisena for a five-year term. Gotabaya secured 52.25 per cent votes (6,924,255) while Premadasa received 41.99 per cent of the total votes polled (5,564,239), the election commission said. Other candidates got 5.76 per cent votes.
Gotabaya had vowed to “restore relations” with Sri Lanka’s top lender, China, if he wins the election, despite international concerns over the island nation’s financial debt to the Asian superpower.
As defence secretary during the rule of his brother Mahinda, Gotabaya - nicknamed ‘Terminator’ by his own family - effectively ran the security forces, and oversaw the final assault on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that ended a 37-year civil war in 2009. However, the brothers stand accused of crimes against humanity, including directing the bombings of civilian hospitals and torturing journalists - allegations they have denied.