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Rajapaksa family dominates Sri Lanka's new Cabinet

Colombo: Sri Lanka's new Cabinet, including four members of the powerful Rajapaksa family, took oath on Wednesday with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa retaining the key defence ministry while the finance portfolio went to newly-elected Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa after their party won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections last week.

President Gotabaya administered the oath of office to the 28-member Cabinet which is two less than the 30 allowed by the Constitution. He also appointed 40 state ministers. The swearing-in ceremony was held in the central town of Kandy.

President Gotabaya retained the ministry of defence while his elder brother Prime Minister Mahinda has been assigned finance, urban development and Buddhist affairs ministries.

Mahinda's elder son, Namal Rajapaksa has been named the Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports - a first time Cabinet position since he entered parliament in 2010.

The eldest brother of the president, Chamal Rajapaksa was named irrigation minister in addition to being the state minister of internal security. His son, Shasheendra Rajapaksa has also been given a state ministry.

One of the main features in the Cabinet is that while the veteran politician Dinesh Gunawardena has been re-named the foreign minister, a new state ministry of regional cooperation affiliated to the foreign ministry has been created.

Significantly, former president Maithripala Sirisena has been overlooked for a Cabinet ministry despite his overwhelming win in the elections from his north central home base.

President Gotabaya also appointed his lawyer as justice minister. Ali Sabry appeared for Gotabaya when he faced court cases related to corruption as a top defence bureaucrat when Mahinda earlier served as president.

Sabri is the only new face in the Cabinet from the new MPs elected.

The Rajapaksa led Sri Lanka People's Party (SLPP) won a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections held last week that allowed the influential family to consolidate power for the next five years.

The SLPP won a record 145 seats in the 225-member parliament.

The parliament is to meet on August 20 for its first session.

Sri Lanka was one of the very few Asian countries apart from Singapore to hold general elections in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic.

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