Sri Lanka president pledges election at 'earliest opportunity'

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Saturday 23rd November 2019 08:49:45 in English News by Xafiiska Hargeysa
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    Sri Lanka president pledges election at 'earliest opportunity'

    Sri Lanka president pledges election at 'earliest opportunity'

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Sri Lanka president pledges election at 'earliest opportunity'

Newly-elected Sri Lankan PresidentGotabaya Rajapaksahas announced he will call a snap parliamentary election "at the earliest opportunity" as he seeks to turn the country's parliamentary arithmetic in his favour after winning office last weekend.

President Gotabaya said on Friday he would "consult the people" as soon as possible underSri Lanka's constitution afterappointing a new 16-member interim cabinet headed by his brother Mahinda, a former president who will now serve as prime minister and finance minister.





Sri Lanka's existing parliamentary term ends next August, and the constitution allows the president to dissolve the legislature in March and go for an election.

The president will hope to ride a wave of popularity and secure a majority for hisSri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) partyin the 225-member Parliament of Sri Lanka during the poll. Currently, the Rajapaksas and their allies have just 96 legislators, making it hard for them to pass legislation.

Former Prime MinisterRanil Wickremesingheof the United National Party (UNP)stepped down on Thursday to make way for Mahinda to form an interim government.




'Reach out to Muslims, Tamils'

A former war-time defence secretary, Gotabaya won the presidency by a sizeable margin in the November 16 presidential vote, defeating former Cabinet Minister for Housing Sajith Premadasa, the candidate of the UNP-led coalition.

In the lead-up to the presidential vote, Rajapaksa's campaign stressed on his credentials as the defence secretary which 10 years ago brought to a close the bloody 26-year civil war between government forces and Tamil rebels.

The new president has pledged to fight corruption and improve security in the wake of a series of bombings onEaster Sundaythat killed more than 260 people, responsibility for which was claimed by theIslamic Stateof Iraq and the Levant (ISILor ISIS) armed group. The government, however, blamed a local Muslim group for the worst bombings since the end of the civil war in 2009.

The International Monetary Fund said earlier this month that Sri Lanka's economy was slowly recovering from the devastating effects of the April 21 attacks that hit the tourism sector - a major revenue earner -hard.

Rights groups have long called for investigations into alleged rights abuses committed during the Rajapaksas' previous terms in power, includingUnited Nationsallegations that more than 40,000 people were killed by security forces in the final days of the country's civil war in the north, as Tamil rebels took shelter among civilians.

The new president also faces a civil suit in theUnited Statesfor allegedly ordering the torture of a Tamil man and several others when he was the defence secretary.

Rajiva Wijasinha, a former member of Parliament, said the new president's biggest challenge would be to ease tensions heightened by the attacks.

"The important thing for this government to do is to work with the Tamil and the Muslim people at grassroots level because I don't think they are interested in separatism or terrorism or fundamentalism," Wijasinha told Al Jazeera from Colombo.

"They must reach out to the Muslims and the Tamils," he added.

 

INSIDE STORY

Can Sri Lanka ever achieve lasting peace | Inside Story

 

SOURCE:NEWS AGENCIES


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