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Sri Lanka president names party veteran Jayaratne as PM

[BBC, Wednesday, 21 April 2010 19:57 No Comment]

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has appointed one of his party’s elder statesmen as prime minister.

DM Jayaratne, a former teacher in his 70s, was sworn in on Wednesday. MPs will choose a new Speaker on Thursday.

Mr Rajapaksa is working out who will be in his new cabinet after final official results confirmed his alliance had won a landslide in parliamentary elections.

The result was delayed for nearly two weeks because of repolls in some areas hit by violence the first time round.

Power

Mr Jayaratne recently said that "everyone" wanted him to be the next premier and that people in Buddhist and Hindu temples, mosques and churches all over the island were invoking divine blessings to secure the post for him.

He has even said he has a specially tailored suit ready for doing the job.

The BBC’s Charles Haviland in Colombo says the prime minister’s post is not a strong one in present-day Sri Lanka.

Our correspondent says President Rajapaksa is now all-powerful, boosted by a huge majority in parliament and in office until 2016 or possibly longer if he seeks to change the constitution.

On Thursday the 225 elected legislators will choose a Speaker and then be sworn in.

One of their number is Gen Sarath Fonseka, the former army chief who made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in January.

He is expected to be in parliament although the government has locked him up and brought him before a military court on charges of improper behaviour – indictments which he rejects and says are politically motivated.

The newly appointed Mr Jayaratne says he does not intend to serve much longer in politics.

[Full Coverage]

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