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DM Jayaratne sworn-in as Sri Lankan PM
COLOMBO, APR 21 (Agencies)
Published on 21 Apr. 2010 11:42 PM IST
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The Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, on Wednesday appointed D.M.Jayaratne, the senior-most member of the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), as the new Prime Minister of the country following the parliamentary elections held on April 8.
Jayaratne, popularly known as “Di Mu Ja” replaces Ratnasitri Wickremanayake. Born in June 1931, Jayaratne has the rare distinction of having enrolled in the SLFP on its founding day, namely, September 2, 1951. By virtue of that, he is today the most senior member of the SLFP.
There are some similarities between President Rajapaksa and Jayaratne. Both have stuck doggedly to the SLFP despite serious setbacks to their political careers at times.Both have been associted with it from their youth. Rajapaksa’s father, D.A.Rajapaksa, was one of the founders of the SLFP along with SWRD.Bandaranaike.
According to informed political circles, Jayaratne has been appointed, in preference to others in the fray, for four reasons: First, he is senior and also non-controversial and acceptable to all. Secondly ,he poses no threat to the President as he is an easy going, harmless man who will do the job assigned to him rather spearhead any campaign against anybody. There are no serious charges against him though he has been a minister for many years.
Thirdly, Jayaratne represents Kandy, a politically important district which is known to be the traditional cultural and political heartland of Sinhalese-Buddhsit Sri Lanka. President Rajapaksa and the ruling Rajapaksa clan are, on the other hand, from Ruhunu or south Sri Lanka. Rajapaksa may have thought that it will be good to have a Prime Minister from Kandy to broaden the power base. Fourthy, Jayaratne shares with Rajapaksa a strong Sinhalese-Buddhist identity which is an essential ingredient of Sri Lankan nationalism.
Like Rajapaksa, Jayaratne is a homespun leader with a rural background.
Again like Rajapaksa, Jayaratne does not believe in devolution of power to the provinces or the ethnic minorities and advocates a home grown solution. He is also hostile to interventions by the international community in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka. Jayaratne failed to enter parliament in 1965 but in 1970 he was in. He lost in 1977 but was back in 1989. In the 1990s, he became the general secretary of the People’s Alliance, the SLFP-led opposition alliance which contested the 1994 parliamentary election successfully. PA’s win saw him becoming the Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Wildlife resources. In 2000 he became the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Co-operatives. From 2004 to 2007 he was the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications. In 2007 he was appointed the Minister of Plantation Industries.
Jayaratne did not contest the 2010 elections, but was on the ruling party’s National List which is filled by nomination.

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