Mahinda tightens grip on ministry

The Sri Lankan president has not appointed anybody as deputy defence minster, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Feb 04, 2007 14:45 IST

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is also defence minister, has tightened his grip over the ministry by not appointing anybody as deputy defence minster in the recent cabinet reshuffle.

Ratnasiri Wickramanayake was deputy defence minister in the last cabinet, but he lost this portfolio in the reshuffle.

Rajapaksa's hold over the ministry is now complete since the defence secretary is none other than his younger brother, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. And under the Constitution, the president is the commander in chief of the armed forces.

The concentration of military power in hands of the hawkish president and his brother is significant in the context of the strong possibility that efforts would be made in the coming months to capture the North, including the Wanni, from the LTTE.

In his Independence Day oration on Sunday, President Rajapaksa expressed his intention to liberate the Tamil people of the North from the LTTE and asked the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to join him and give a helping hand.

"It is only by joining with us that the innocent Tamil people of the North can be liberated from terrorist intimidation," he told the TNA.

The Commander of the Army, Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka, was the first to say that the North would be taken after clearing the East of the LTTE.

Following this, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa told an international wire service that the Armed Forces would seek and destroy the Tamil Tigers wherever they might be.

First Published: Feb 04, 2007 14:45 IST