Wickremanayake appointed new Lankan PM

[TamilNet, Monday, 21 November 2005, 07:09 GMT]
Mr.Ratnasiri Wickremanayake was sworn in as the fourteenth Prime Minister of Sri Lanka before SL President Mahinda Rajapakse Monday. At a ceremony held at the Temple Trees, Mr. Rajapakse sworn in him as the Prime Minister of his would-be appointed cabinet this morning. Ratnasiri Wickremanayake held the post of Deputy Minister of Defense and Minister of Buddhist Affairs till the election of Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse as the 5th executive president of Sri Lanka.

Ratnasiri Wickramayake takes oath

Ratnasiri Wickramayake takes oath
Ratnasiri Wickramayake takes oath
Mr. Wickremanayake, considered as a Sinhala hardliner, was Sri Lankan Prime Minister from 1999 November till February 2001.

Seventy-year old Wickramanayake entered parliament from his Horana electorate in 1960. He first became a cabinet minister during former Prime Minister, Mrs. Srima Bandaranaike's cabinet from 1970 to 1977.

He was again appointed minister when outgoing SL President Chandrika Kumaratunga became the President in 1994.

Following the death of Mrs. Bandaranaike, he was appointed interim Prime Minister during the People's Alliance government in August 2000.

Thereafter he was the Leader of the Opposition till April 2002 giving way to Mr.Mahinda Rajapakse.

Mr. Wickremanayake became the Prime Minister again when the United National Front (UNF) government led by Mr.Ranil Wickremasinghe was ousted from power in October 2003.

Mr. Wickramanayake, a well-known Sinhala hardliner who has spoken against the peace process with the LTTE, Norwegian facilitation, and the existing ceasefire agreement, had earlier introduced the anti-conversion bill in June 2004 after he was appointed Minister of Buddhist Affairs, Public Security, Law and Order in the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) government after April 2004 snap general election.

The bill which states "no person shall convert or attempt to convert another person to another religion," and that "no person shall provide assistance or encouragement towards such conversion to another religion," sparked protests as violating major UN declarations and covenants. The bill is yet to be tabled in Sri Lanka parliament.

He was also appointed as the Deputy Minister of Defense by Ms Kumaratunga in the UPFA Government.

Analysts are of the view that the appointment of Mr. Wickramanayake is a clear message to the Tamils as well as to the international community the hardline approach the new President is to take towards the Tamil national question.

When the Executive Committee of the SLFP met prior to the presidential election, to select its candidate, it unanimously named Mahinda Rajapakse as the Presidential candidate and named Mr. Anura Bandaranaike as the prime ministerial candidate.

However, the move by Mr. Rajapakse to appoint Mr. Wickramanayake as the new Prime Minister, was considered a clear indication to sideline Bandaranaike dynasty.

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