Mahinda Rajapaksa sworn in as Sri Lanka’s new prime minister

This is the third time Mahinda Rajapaksa has been appointed prime minister of Sri Lanka. (Reuters)
Updated 22 November 2019

Mahinda Rajapaksa sworn in as Sri Lanka’s new prime minister

  • Rajapaksa takes office for third time, days after his brother Gotabhaya became president

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s newly elected Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, was sworn in as the country’s 23rd premier on Thursday. His younger brother, Gotabhaya, the country’s newly elected president, presided over the 74-year-old’s inauguration ceremony at the Presidential Secretariat. Mahinda will head the country’s caretaker government until general elections in August 2020.

Former President Maithripala Sirisena and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who officially stepped down Thursday morning, were also present at the ceremony.

Wickremesinghe resigned from his post to make way for Rajapaksa’s regime, which he said had a “clear mandate” to form a new government.

According to official sources, the announcement of the interim cabinet, due to take place on Thursday, has been postponed until Friday.

This is the third time Mahinda Rajapaksa has been appointed prime minister of Sri Lanka. He gained a slim majority with the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) in 2004, and served a 52-day term during last year’s constitutional crisis.

Meanwhile, key members of the defeated Democratic United National Front (DUNF) party submitted a written request urging the speaker of parliament, Karu Jayasuriya, to appoint Sajith Premadasa to the post of Leader of the Opposition.

The main signatories of that petition were outgoing ministers Rauf Hakeem, Rishath Bathiudeen, Mano Ganeshan and senior members from the United National Party. The former education minister, Akila Viraj Kariyawsam, also submitted an individual request to the speaker requesting him to appoint Wickremesinghe instead.

Following the letters of resignation submitted by nine governors on Wednesday, the president appointed six new governors to take over their vacant provinces.

The new governors are A J M Muzammil for the North Western province, Tikiri Kobbekaduwa for Sabaragamuwa province, Seetha Arambepola for the Western province, Lalith U Gamage for the Central province, Raja Kollure for Uva, and Willy Gamage for the Southern province. Of those six new appointments, only Muzammil has previously held office as a provincial governor.


World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

Updated 24 January 2020

World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

  • Economist and Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee will attend the event

JAIPUR: The 13th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) started on Thursday.

Known as the “greatest literary show on earth,” the five-day event brings to one venue more than 500 speakers of 15 Indian and 35 foreign languages, and over 30 nationalities.

Among the festival’s participants are Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners.

The event has been expanding, with over 400,000 people attending it last year and even more expected to show up this time.  The growing crowd has made the medieval Diggi Palace, which hosts it, look small, and organizers are planning to shift the event to a bigger venue next year.

Scottish historian and writer William Dalrymple, one of the organizers, said: “The first time we came to the Diggi Palace in 2007, 16 people turned up for the session of which 10 were Japanese tourists who walked out after 10 minutes, as they had come to the wrong place. Things have improved a little since then. We are now formally the largest literature festival in the world.”

Dalrymple, who has extensively written on medieval India and South Asia, has played a pivotal role in promoting the festival.

The other two organizers are its director, Sanjoy K. Roy, and writer Namita Gokhale, who along with Dalrymple made the JLF become one of the most sought-after events in India.

“Why has the literary festival taken off in this country in this extraordinary way? It goes back to the tradition of spoken literature, the celebration of literature orally through the spoken word has deep roots in this country,” Dalrymple said.

“So the idea that a literary festival is a foreign import is something that can’t be maintained. We’ve tapped into something very deep here. Literature is alive and is loved in India,” he said.

Inaugurating the festival’s 13th edition, celebrated British mathematician Marcus du Sautoy said: “Every number has its own particular character in the story of mathematics. For me it is 13; 13 is a prime number, an indivisible number, and the JLF is certainly a festival in its prime.”

The festival this year is taking place amid a raging debate about India’s new citizenship legislation and mass agitation on the issue of preserving the secular fabric of the nation.

Reflecting on the prevailing mood in the country, Roy, in his opening remarks, said: “We are now faced with a situation where we see a spread of the narrative of hatred. Literature is the one thing that can push back against it and so can be the arts. All of us have a responsibility to do so and this is not the time to be silent anymore.”

Gokhale said: “Ever since its inception 13 years ago, we at the Jaipur Literary Festival have tried to give a voice to our plural and multilingual culture. We live in a nation which is defined by its diversity, and it is our effort to present a range of perspectives, opinions, and points of view, which together build up a cross-section of current thinking.”

She added: “We seek mutual respect and understanding in our panels — it is important to us that these often conflicting ideas are respectfully presented and heard. We also resist predictable and self-important all-male panels, and try to ensure that the vital voices of women resonate through all aspects of our programming.”

One of the attractions of the event this year is the presence of Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee, who won the prize in economics last year.

There are also panel discussions on Kashmir, the Indian constitution and history.

The prevailing political situation in South Asia is also reflected by the absence of Pakistani. Before, popular Pakistani authors would attend the JLF, but delays in visa issuance and a hostile domestic environment forced the organizers to “desist from extending invitations.”