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Following a brutal crackdown, Sri Lanka’s new ministers are sworn in

(Photo Credit: Xinhua News)

Following a brutal crackdown on demonstrators in Galle Face, Colombo, Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe has sworn in a new cabinet comprised of those with troubled records.

Detailed below are a few ministers which stand out.

Dinesh Gunawardena

Gunawardena who previously served as Sri Lanka’s foreign minister has been elevated to the position of Prime Minister. During his tenure as the country’s foreign minister, he ferociously defended the government against charges of war crimes at the UN Human Rights Council.

Speaking at the global body in Geneva, Gunawardena staunchly defended the war crimes accused head of the Sri Lankan army Shavendra Silva and officially withdrew his government’s co-sponsorship of a resolution on accountability for rights abuses.

As a new resolution was passed, Gunawardena decried it as “unwarranted, unjustified”, and “illegal”.

Read more:

Sri Lanka defends Silva and lashes out at UN critics

Foreign minister officially pulls Sri Lanka out of resolution in Geneva

Sri Lanka lashes out at UN High Commissioner’s call for ‘international accountability’

Sri Lanka’s foreign minister decries UN resolution as ‘illegal’

Ali Sabry

Sabry, who previously served as Sri Lanka’s justice minister, has been appointed as External Affairs Minister.

A long-time Rajapaksa ally and a member of the legal team of Gotabaya’s presidential counsel, Sabry helped campaign for the accused war criminal in 2019.

In a video that was circulated during the presidential elections is seen speaking to a Muslim crowd and asking the audience; “If we don’t support him, what will happen?”

To which a member of the crowd responds, “ambanaikku kidaikkum” which roughly translates to “a lot will happen” or “we will be beaten a lot”.

Douglas Devananda

Devananda has maintained his role as fisheries minister.

Devananda heads the notorious Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP), a paramilitary organisation that continues to remain close to the Rajapaksa family.

He has been rewarded with several ministerial posts throughout the years, including Minister of Social Services and Social Welfare, Minister of Agriculture, Marketing Development, Hindu Education Affairs and currently remains the Minister of fisheries.

Throughout the armed conflict, the EPDP was armed and backed by the Sri Lankan state, carrying out a series of war crimes and other human rights violations. The EPDP was one of several paramilitary groups, including the Karuna faction, which was utilised by the Sri Lankan government.

Read more about his record here: Abductions, murders and prostitution rings – The story of Douglas Devananda, who is still a Sri Lankan minister

Vidura Wickramanayake

Wickramanayake has been appointed to the ministerial post of Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs. He has supported militarisation efforts in his post as state minister for 'national heritage'. He has also staunchly opposed the UN resolution arguing that “as a sovereign state, we cannot let the UNHRC or any other organisation take us for a ride.”

Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe

Rajapakshe a veteran Sri Lankan politician, has been appointed to the position of Justice Minister. He has previously advocated for the rape of lesbians to "cure" them of homosexuality. He has further lashed out at UN Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson, accusing him of "false facts". The minister has further slammed efforts for an international investigation into war crimes.

He has shown his fidelity to Buddhist nationalists by meeting with the extremist  Bodu Bala Sena. In August 2017, he was removed from his position due to his failure to investigate alleged corruption by the Mahinda Rajapaksa government. Last year the pandora papers revealed that members of the Rajapaksa family had stashed millions of dollars in anonymous offshore trusts and shell companies.

A full list of the ministerial appointments is detailed below:

Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena – Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils, and Local Government

Minister Douglas Devananda – Fisheries

Minister Susil Premajayantha – Education

Minister Bandula Gunawardena – Transport & Highways, and Media

Minister Keheliya Rambukwella – Health and Water Supply

Minister Mahinda Amaraweera – Agriculture, Wildlife, and Forest Conservations

Minister (Dr) Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe – Justice, Prisons, and Constitutional Reforms

Minister Harin Fernando – Tourism and Lands

Minister Ramesh Pathirana – Plantations and Industries

Minister Prasanna Ranatunga – Urban Development and Housing

Minister Ali Sabry – External Affairs

Minister Vidura Wickramanayake – Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs

Minister Kanchana Wijesekera – Power and Energy

Minister Naseer Ahamed – Environment

Minister Roshan Ranasinghe – Sports & Youth Affairs, and Irrigation

Minister Manusha Nanayakkara – Labour and Foreign Employment

Minister Tiran Alles – Public Security

Minister Nalin Fernando – Trade, Commerce and Food Security

Read more here

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