Sri Lanka's newly elected President Mahinda Rajapakse on Monday swore in a hardliner as prime minister, who in the past has pushed for strong arm tactics to end Sri Lanka's lingering civil war. The ceremony marked the start of 72-year-old Ratnasiri Wickremanayaka's third stint as premier.
As prime minister in 2000 and again a year later, Wickremanayaka operated a two prong approach to ending the Tamil Tiger insurgency, to wage the war while trying to lure the rebels to the peace table. Wearing a white shirt and white sarong, Wickremanayake took the oath of office in the Temple Tress - the prime minister's official residence. Rajapakse, elected to office on the promise of a tough line toward the separatists, defeated dovish Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was a favored choice to revive stalled peace talks with the rebels.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam demand wide autonomy in the northeast, where most of Sri Lanka's 3.2 million ethnic Tamils live, saying they can only prosper away from the domination of the Sinhalese majority.
After assuming office Saturday, Rajapakse ruled out the rebels' demands, saying he would never let Sri Lanka be divided. But he also pledged to ensure the country does not return to civil war, reports the AP. I.L.