Sri Lanka president to appoint new cabinet

Last Updated: Fri, Apr 23, 2010 04:50 hrs

Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse is set to announce a new sharply reduced cabinet of ministers on Friday as he manoeuvres family members into key positions in his administration.

The new cabinet will be unveiled a day after the opening of parliament, during which Rajapakse's elder brother Chamal, formerly ports minister, was unanimously elected as speaker.

Officials say Rajapakse's younger brother Basil, formerly a presidential advisor, was expected to be brought into the new cabinet with a powerful ministry.

Another brother is Sri Lanka's powerful defence secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapakse, the top civil servant in the defence ministry.

Rajapakse was still drawing up the list of ministers on Friday morning, an official said, with the swearing-in set to take place at an astrologically auspicious time around midday.

The cabinet is set to be less than half the size of the previous one, which featured a record 109 ministers and deputy ministers, an official said, asking not to be named.

"The names are still being finalised," the official said.

The president was resoundingly reelected for a second term in elections in January and he cemented his grip on power in parliamentary elections held two weeks ago when his party increased its numbers of seats.

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