Mahinda Rajapaksa on Thursday took oath as Sri Lanka’s new prime minister, days after his younger brother was elected president, cementing the powerful and controversial Rajapaksa clan’s grip on political power in the island nation.
Mahinda, the 23rd prime minister, was administered the oath by his younger sibling and newly-elected President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat.
The 74-year-old leader will function as the prime minister of the caretaker cabinet until the general election in August 2020.
Former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, former president Maithripala Sirisena and a number of other political leaders were present on the occasion.
This is Mahinda’s second innings as the prime minister. He was premier for a brief period in 2018 amidst a major political turmoil in the country.
Earlier in the day, Wickremesignhe formally tendered his resignation to President Gotabhaya.
He also vacated his official residence, Temple Trees, to make room for the new prime minister.
Wickremesignhe announced his resignation on Wednesday following the presidential election debacle of his United National Party (UNP).
Gotabhaya defeated UNP’s Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa in the presidential election held on November 16.
After Wickremesignhe’s announcement, Gotabhaya named Mahinda as the new prime minister.
Mahinda, who describes himself as “a rebel with a cause”, earlier served as the country’s president from 2005-2015.
Mahinda was appointed the prime minister on October 26, 2018, by the then President Maithripala Sirisena, who sacked Wickremesinghe in a controversial move that plunged the country into an unprecedented constitutional crisis.
He resigned on December 15 as two crucial Supreme Court decisions made the former strongman’s efforts to cling to premiership untenable.
The apex court later unanimously declared that the dissolution of Parliament by President Sirisena was “illegal”.
Mahinda became the country’s youngest-ever parliamentarian in 1970 at the age of 24.
The two brothers — Mahinda and Gotabhaya — led a decisive campaign that helped end the island nation’s three-decade-long civil war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
However, the brother-duo was accused of condoning sexual violence and extrajudicial killings allegedly by Lankan security forces during the civil war, which ended in May 2009 with the death of LTTE supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran.