New Sri Lankan cabinet sworn in

DM Jayaratne was sworn in as the prime minister again in the new cabinet.

Colombo: Sri Lanka`s powerful President Mahinda Rajapakse on Monday unveiled an expanded 59-member Cabinet for his second six-year term as he kept with himself the key Defence and Finance portfolios and retained Prime Minister DM Jayaratne.

The President`s brother, Basil Rajapaksa, the main political strategist of his administration, also retained his post of Economic Development Minister.

Newly-appointed ministers along with 31 other deputy ministers took the oath of office before Rajapakse at the Presidential Secretariat, ahead of the presentation of the first budget of his second term.

Ministerial portfolios were offered to several MPs who pledged their support to the government during the crucial vote on 18th amendment to the Constitution which removed the term limits for the presidency.

The previous Cabinet under Rajapakse had 41 ministers in it.

Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, the leading party representing the Muslim minority which had supported the now jailed common opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka during the Presidential Election in January, also become a partner of the coalition government, accepting a Cabinet portfolio.

Its leader Rauf Hakeem has been appointed as the new Justice Minister.

Sri Lanka has introduced several senior ministerial portfolios similar to the Singaporean system and appointed 10 veteran politicians for such positions.

Functions and operational procedures of the newly introduced senior ministers in the executive President-led Cabinet were not immediately clear.

Key portfolios such as Defence and Finance continue to remain under Rajapakse.

However, the President`s son Namal, who entered Parliament in recent general election, has not been picked for any position.

A total of 12 junior ministers were promoted in the shake-up, which expanded the Cabinet to 59.

Rajapakse also created a new post for "international monetary cooperation" and made ex-deputy finance minister Sarath Amunugama in charge of the portfolio, which is aimed at coordinating Sri Lanka`s ties with foreign lenders.

The President won the election for an unprecedented second term in January defeating Fonseka, following which the 18th amendment to the Constitution was adopted in Parliament that removed the term limits for presidency.