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Sri Lanka President names new foreign minister in cabinet reshuffle

Outgoing foreign minister Samaraweera has been criticised for agreeing to co-sponsor UN Human Rights Council resolutions calling for investigations into Sri Lanka’s human rights accountability.

world Updated: May 23, 2017 15:31 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India
Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena,foreign minister Ravi Karunanayake,finance minister Mangala Samaraweera
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena (R) appoints Ravi Karunanayake the new foreign minister.(AFP)

Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena on Monday switched the portfolios of foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera and finance minister Ravi Karunanayake as part of his first cabinet reshuffle since 2015, when he formed the coalition government in Sri Lanka.

Karunanayake will now manage the foreign ministry, while Samaraweera, in addition to the finance department, will have the media portfolio.

Samaraweera, 60, has been criticised by the opposition for compromising Sri Lanka’s interests in agreeing to co- sponsor UN Human Rights Council resolutions which called for investigations into the country’s human rights accountability. He was also accused of facilitating international interference in domestic affairs through the 2015 resolution that was sponsored by the US, the UK and other countries.

Sri Lanka’s Tamil community insists that foreign judges and investigators probe the alleged war crimes, claiming a lack of confidence in the country’s judiciary.

According to UN estimates, up to 40,000 civilians were killed during the three-decade-long war that ended in defeat for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Both the government forces and the rebels are accused of committing war crimes during the final phase of the war.

Karunanayake, 54, is an assistant leader of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP). His handling of economy, particularly the raising of Value Added Tax, has been severely criticised.

Sirisena also took away the ports and shipping portfolio from legendary cricketer and former captain of the national team Arjuna Ranatunga and gave him the ministry of petroleum resources. Ranatunga’s handling of the ports ministry has drawn ire from trade unions. He reportedly angered both Sirisena and Wickremesinghe over his opposition to the proposed Chinese economic zone in the southern port of Hambantota.

First Published: May 23, 2017 15:31 IST