COLOMBO, Feb 25, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Sri Lanka’s prime minister took over the key law and order ministry Sunday as part of a cabinet reshuffle, after a local election defeat sparked calls for his resignation.
Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in to the ministerial post Sunday, a week after the minister in charge of the police, Sagala Ratnayaka, resigned amid accusations he had failed to prosecute members of the former regime.
Several other ministerial changes were also made Sunday while another reshuffle will be carried out within two weeks, President Maithripala Sirisena said after the swearing-in ceremony.
“These changes as well as those soon to be made on the UPFA side of the government will strengthen us to better serve our people,” Sirisena said referring to his United people’s Freedom Alliance, the junior partner in government.
Coalition members had demanded urgent reforms after they were heavily defeated in the February 10 local council elections by the new party of former strongman president Mahinda Rajapakse.
Wickremesinghe said last week the defeat was due to the government’s failure to prosecute those responsible for high-profile murders of journalists and major corruption during Rajapakse’s decade in power.
Wickremesinghe will hold the Law and Order ministry in addition to being the minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs.
Last week, he dismissed calls for his resignation and insisted that he could be removed only by parliament, where his party enjoys a comfortable majority.
However he has admitted that his administration was slow to deliver on a 2015 election promise to prosecute corrupt members of the former regime.
Rajapakse, whose family wields enormous influence in Sri Lanka, has staged a dramatic comeback since launching his Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna or People’s Front party. Rajapakse’s party comfortably won in all regions apart from the battle-scarred north and east where, as president, he brutally crushed a separatist Tamil movement to end the island’s ethnic war in 2009.
The ex-president has demanded a snap general election and challenged his successor’s right to govern after his drubbing in the polls.