NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed five members of his own family to cabinet and ministerial roles following his resounding parliamentary election win earlier this month.
Gotabaya and his older brother Mahinda Rajapaksa won an overwhelming majority in the Aug. 6 poll, giving the family the power to enact sweeping changes to the island nation’s constitution.
The two-thirds majority for his Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party and its allies will allow him to restore full executive powers to the presidency, a move analysts say could push the country towards authoritarianism.
In a ceremony late on Wednesday, Gotabaya appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa – himself a former president – as minister of finance, urban development and housing, and religious and cultural affairs.
Gotabaya’s elder brother Chamal Rajapaksa will serve as minister of irrigation, and a state minister for defence, while Mahinda’s son, Namal Rajapaksa becomes minister for youth and sports.
Chamal’s son Shashendra Rajapaksa will also serve as a state minister.
Gotabaya reappointed himself defence minister, a role he held during Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war.
Long a dominant force in Sri Lankan politics, the family’s popularity rose significantly among the island’s majority Sinhalese population following deadly bombings carried out last year by Islamist militants that killed more than 250.
(Reporting by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Hugh Lawson)