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Buddhist blessings as Mahinda Rajapaksa is sworn in as prime minister

Mahinda Rajapaksa, an accused war criminal, and leader of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), was sworn in as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in a Buddhist ceremony today.

Mahinda took the oath in the presence of Sri Lanka's President, the Buddhist clergy, the Maha Sangha and other parliamentarians at Kelani Raja Maha vihara. 

In 2009, during his tenure as Sri Lanka's President, Mahinda and Gotabaya who was serving as the Defence Secretary, ran a military offensive killing tens of thousands of Tamil civilians. Both brothers have been credibly accused of overseeing war crimes and have repeatedly refused for an international investigation to take place, threatening to resign from global bodies if prosecutions for human rights abuses were pursued.  

The Rajapaksas have dominated the parliamentary elections in Sri Lanka last week based on a staunch Sinhala nationalist campaign, with the SLPP obtaining 145 seats, including through its National List, securing a two-thirds majority, allowing them the power to amend constitutions. Throughout their election campaign, the brothers openly admitted that they are seeking to abolish the 19th amendment of the Constitution, which currently limits the powers of the President and offers increased authority to the parliament. During his tenure as president, Mahinda removed the two term limit for the president as well as stripping the independence of numerous organisations such as elections, human rights, police and judicial services. 

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement yesterday, warning that the leadership of the country is “waging a campaign of fear and intimidation against human rights activists, journalists, lawyers, and others challenging government policy.’’

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