Lanka appoints hawkish new PM

Colombo, Nov 21 | Updated: Nov 22 2005, 05:30am hrs
Sri Lankas new leader swore in a hawkish new prime minister on Monday in a move analysts said reinforced his hardline stance on any future peace negotiations with the Tamil Tiger rebels. Former deputy defence minister and one-time prime minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, a fervent Sinhalese nationalist, was reappointed to the premiership by newly elected President Mahinda Rajapakse.

The appointment of Wickremanayake sends a message that President Rajapakse intends to take a hardline stance on the peace process, said Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, director of the Colombo-based think-tank Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The appointment of Wickremanayake could have implications for the peace process, but we have to wait and see, he added. Rajapakse, who has allied himself to hardline Marxists and nationalists strongly opposed to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels, has not yet announced the make-up of the rest of his new cabinet.

He campaigned on pledges of ruling out widespread devolution for minority Tamils and has rejected outright the LTTEs demands for an ethnic homeland angering the rebels.